Hospices exempted from opioid-alternative law

Medicine Bottle and Pills Under Spot Light Abstract.
The law aimed to curb addiction, but for dying patients, that's not much of a concern.

Hospices will not have to provide alternatives for opioids for patients seeking anesthesia or pain management.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill (HB 743), which removes those facilities and critical care units from requirements approved last year that allow patients to ask their health providers to substitute other pain treatment medication in the place of opioids. Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Scott Plakon, who both filed last year’s legislation and this year’s “glitch fix,” say adding hospices to that requirement created unintended consequences.

Hospice care is largely about providing comfort for terminally ill patients. For those in the late stages of their life, addiction is no longer a concern.

“Due to the typically short stay in hospice for end of life patients, the risk of developing drug addiction is very low, and let’s face it, not very important at that point,” Plakon told Representatives this Session, invoking the death of his wife in 2018 after a four-year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Last year’s legislation required medical providers to inform patients of less-addictive alternatives, to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of those options, and to document on the patient’s medical record the alternatives considered. It called for a state-approved paper pamphlet to be handed to individuals for review.

But hospice care professionals have strict rules for the prescription, handling and disposal of medicine, making hospice care a low-risk spreader of addiction.

The 2019 legislation was one in a series of recent bills designed to prevent opioid addiction, informing those with a history of addiction or those who want to avoid the risk with lesser-known options.

Unnecessarily strict rules on hospice care wasn’t the only hiccup the law caused. Its broad language initially left questions of whether it applied to other Schedule II drugs besides opioids and what alternatives to recommend.

There are about 140,000 end of life patients in Florida.

The new legislation will go into effect July 1.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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