Thank you to the Colorado Legislature for passing the “never die alone” legislation in its 2022 session. A special thank you to the legislators who championed the cause over several years of legislative sessions.
After testifying before the Colorado State House and watching first-hand the “respectfully no” votes against the House version of the bill, I admittedly was pessimistic the State House would turn around and support the Senate companion version sent to it. But, Senate Bill 22-053 passed with amendments through the House and back through the Senate for its final approval. The only remaining hurdle is the Governor’s signature.
The bill is now aptly named “The Elizabeth’s No Patient or Resident Left Alone Act.” Elizabeth Reiter died alone on May 19, 2020, at the University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado (“UCHealth”). She had double pneumonia and a blood infection; then a blood clot in her lung caused cardiac arrest and her death. For 21 days, 40-year old Elizabeth battled alone in the hospital as UCHealth denied her any visitors. Not her husband. Not her children. No one.
Elizabeth’s husband, Steve Reiter, founded the Never Alone Project in 2021, which promotes legislative policy change, state by state, to prevent hospitals and healthcare facilities from implementing the draconian “no visitor” policies which caused his wife and family immeasurable pain and suffering. Drawing from Reiter’s personal tragedy, The Project asserts that hospitals forced patients into isolation and that this isolation was a “human rights abuse.”
I agree. As someone appalled at healthcare policy that forced isolation and family separation through “no visitor” policies, I joined Reiter in his now 3-year fight to impact Colorado policy. I wrote repeatedly during this legislative session against Colorado healthcare facilities and their policies which separate us when we need each other most:
Ultimately, these policies were proven draconian and created unnecessary and prolonged agony of the pandemic. The policies were also immoral, resulting in unethical treatment protocols. When all healthcare providers agree that visitors improve patient outcomes, depriving patients of visitors seems equivalent to withholding treatment.
Any of us could find ourselves in this situation, pleading with healthcare administrators to be with our sick loved ones. Hospitals should revert to pre-pandemic visitor policies, and no one should die alone in solitary, hospital confinement.
I hope Steve Reiter finds some solace with the passage of “The Elizabeth’s No Patient or Resident Left Alone Act.” His fight is all of ours. A fight for human dignity, compassion, and morality in a time of chaos.