HB427: Lawmakers seek protect first responders from blood disease


SALT LAKE CITY – Members of the House Health and Human Service Committee voted to allow immediate blood tests without patient consent if an emergency service provider had significant exposure in the course of treatment.

HB427 addresses an issue first responders and other emergency care workers face when helping patients at the scene of an accident.

Photo-Utah Department of Health
Photo-Utah Department of Health

“In an emergency situation there’s always a possibility of being exposed to blood borne pathogens. You don’t know for sure if that person has an infectious disease or not,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan. The bill allows for a quicker solution for first responders, who may have been exposed to a blood borne illnesses.

“[The bill] addresses a problem that previous code did not address because the technology and testing did not exist,” Redd said. New medications and treatments now exist to treat those who have been exposed to certain blood diseases.

HIV is the most common and concerning illness transferred by exposure to blood. “HIV is time sensitive, the sooner you start the treatment, the more likely you are to eradicate it. The problem is the person may not be able to give consent because of the situation,” Redd said.

The bill extends options for testing patients’ blood at the time of exposure. The test results can help determine whether emergency responders and “good Samaritans” involved in on-the-scene first aid require treatment for exposure.

“The treatment is costly and has undesirable side effects. We don’t want to just give it to everyone,” Redd said.

South Salt Lake City Police Chief Jack Carruth spoke in favor of the bill from a law enforcement perspective. “We as law enforcement deal with aggressive individuals all the time that are injured prior to us making contact. As they resist, we have to go hands on,” he said, adding that society has an obligation to ensure that officers are able to protect themselves from exposure.

Currently, a person that does not give consent cannot be tested for blood diseases. This applies to both those unwilling or unable patients. If the patient does not give consent, the legal process to get the necessary test often takes two to fourteen days.

“We still want it to be a warrant to get the test done,” Carruth said. “We don’t want to violate an individual’s rights, but we are concern about protecting our service men and women.”

The House Health and Human Services Committee placed the bill on hold as the bill’s language needed revision. “The concept is ready, but the wording needs to be fixed up a bit,” Redd said.

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