The law would require hospitals to remove physical barriers to patients seeking to enter emergency rooms, among other things.
The Massachusetts Legislature has approved “Laura’s Law,” legislation that would make hospital emergency rooms more accessible to patients who arrive of their own accord.
According to Boston.com, the bill was approved by legislators on Wednesday and has since moved to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for signature.
The law’s informal title, notes Boston.com, is named for Laura Levis, who died outside CHA Somerville Hospital in 2016. She was, at the time of her death, only 34 years old.
Levis had arrived to CHA Somerville independently, seeking treatment for an asthma attack. However, Levis only managed to find the well-lit and highly visible entrance emergency entrance. When she tried opening the doors, she found they were locked.
With her symptoms growing worse, Levis called 911 for help. But by the time first responders managed to locate her, she had already collapsed on a hospital bench.
Levis was brought inside to be treated for a cardiac arrest but remained unresponsive. She died in Somerville says several days later.
Boston.com reports that Levis’s husband, Peter DeMarco, has advocated for change since his wife’s untimely death. Among DeMarco’s foremost requests was that hospitals remove physical barriers to emergency rooms, such as locked doors.
“All it takes is for you to lose one coin flip when you’re in an emergency, when you’re in a crisis and you’re going for emergency help,” DeMarco said in 2019. “All you need is for one thing to go wrong. One door to be locked, or one sign to be missing or one light bulb to be out […] to prevent you from getting emergency help as quickly as you should.
“It’s why I feel this bill is so important, because there are currently no standards for any of these elements at hospitals,” DeMarco said. “Every hospital does what it feels it should, but there are no state standards. There are no best practice standards that are enforced.”
State Sen. Pat Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat, said “Laura’s Law” remains important even amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Even during COVID, people need to get to the emergency room,” Sen. Jehlen said. “It’s not that Laura’s the only person this has happened to, but we don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
“In an emergency,” Jehlend added, “every minute counts. The dim lights and unclear signage took minutes from Laura that cost her life.”
DeMarco later said that the Legislature’s approval of Laura’s Law will give his wife’s death “incredible meaning.”
“A brighter sign, a guard at the security desk, a clearly marked door—any one of those things could have made a huge difference to someone who’s having a heart attack or a stroke, or an asthma attack, or someone who’s overdosed on drugs and rushes to a hospital,” DeMarco said. “I hope I never have to hear of someone ever again dying steps from an emergency room door. And that will all be because of Laura.”