Capitol: Lawmakers reject STD bill

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January 25th, 2012

Lincoln, NE – A bill aimed at combating the spread of sexually transmitted diseases has died in the Legislature.

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The bill was sponsored by Lincoln Senator Amanda McGill. It would have given legal immunity to doctors and other medical personnel who prescribe antibiotics to patients they never met, if those people were partners of someone diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

Sen. Amanda McGill wants to give doctors immunity to prescribe antibiotics for the partners of people diagnosed with a sexually-transmitted disease. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

McGill said the bill was aimed at combating an epidemic in Omaha that’s now spreading to Lincoln and other communities. Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha was among those expressing opposition. “I think we’re creating a very dangerous situation here in regards to liability with physicians,” McCoy said. “We’ve had epidemics in the past in our country’s history, and I don’t know of any case where we have excused physicians and medical practitioners from liability for any other epidemic in our nation’s history. Why should it be done now?”

McGill said other states are using similar legislation to fight the epidemic. “Even if you may not approve of certain sexual behaviors, or you may not be a hundred percent comfortable with the thought of a doctor giving a prescription to someone they haven’t met, there’s a reality out there,” McGill said. “And there’s evidence to show that this works. This isn’t a brand new concept. We can’t say that no other epidemic in history has been treated this way because this one is currently being treated this way by 30 states.”

When the time came to vote, only 21 senators supported advancing the bill, with 24 opposed. McGill said afterwards that some physicians will continue to write prescriptions for people they haven’t seen because the law doesn’t explicitly forbid it. And she said she hopes a bill requiring education on the topic in schools advances. That proposal, introduced last year by Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, currently remains in the Education Committee.

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