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Bill Prohibiting Hospitals From Restricting In-Person Visitation Deferred Again In Tennessee Senate Committee

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

This Wednesday, Tennessee’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee deferred action for the second time on a bill that prevents hospitals from restricting visitation rights of those who are designated to hold power of attorney for a patient.

On January 31st, the committee considered Senate Bill 1641 (SB1641), sponsored by Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon-District 17). This legislation recently picked up a sponsor in the House with Rep. Kip Capley (R-Summertown-District 71) carrying HB1883.

Sen. Pody prefaced his bill saying, “We had an uncertainty back a few years ago with Covid and such, and hospitals were doing the best they can to take care of patients, but unfortunately they had a protocol that people were not allowed to go into the hospitals to visit their family members, even if they had power of attorney.”

Sen. Pody explained that he had been working with the Tennessee Hospital Association to amend the bill with any necessary clarifications.

The three requests made by the hospital association include clarifications on how long and when those with power of attorney could visit patients and who is legally allowed to visit patients that are in the custody of law enforcement.

According to Sen. Pody, the association’s third request and the one he could not completely compromise on, was requiring visitors with power of attorney to follow all hospital-ordained safety protocols.

“In their definition and our definition, it’s a little bit different,” Sen. Pody explained. “Where we said this, and this is probably one of the most important words in here, is we should have to follow all their safety protocols except the word ‘non-invasive’. I should not be forced to do something like take a shot, whatever, to go in and visit my wife and be the power of attorney to make her medical decisions.”

At this point, the committee paused consideration of SB1641 and moved onto another presentation so that legislative staff could take care of technical issues. The committee almost moved to adjourn without further discussion of Sen. Pody’s bill.

However, Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson-District 11) requested that they proceed with SB1641 since he was the one who recommended they move on to the presentation in the first place. 

The committee then resumed consideration of SB1641.

Zack Blair (Tennessee Hospital Association) spoke in opposition of the bill saying that it was too restrictive on hospitals due to a section of the bill “that places the same restrictions on a hospital to react to an emergency, as it does on the governor.” 

Holt Whitt (TDH) spoke in opposition on behalf of the Governor’s Office saying, “We echo some of the same concerns, […] in particular, limiting the governor’s authority during an emergency. It’s difficult to predict what the next emergency may be, and so the way that this bill limits us could be problematic in the future.” 

Ultimately, Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson-District 25) suggested that they defer action on SB1641 so that the involved parties could “work this thing out.”

Sen. Pody agreed to roll the bill by a week, but seemed quite sure that there would be no further compromise on its contents.

“We’re one word away,” he stated. “It’s just ‘non-invasive.’ I can go along with many things that they say, except I don’t want to be forced to take a shot to visit somebody in the hospital, and I want that clear when we’re going in […] I wish I could work more with the governor’s office, but […] if I was the governor, I’d probably say I don’t want anybody taking my authority away either.”

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is scheduled to take up SB1641 again on Wednesday, February 7th, 2024.

To voice your support or opposition to SB1641, use the information below to contact the committee members prior to their scheduled meeting on February 7th, 2024.

Senator Rusty Crowe (R) – Chair – – (615) 741-2468

Senator Ferrell Haile (R) – Vice Chair – – (615) 741-1999

Senator Shane Reeves (R) – 2nd Vice Chair – – (615) 741-1066

Senator Joey Hensley (R) – – (615) 741-3100

Senator Ed Jackson (R) – – (615) 741-1810

Senator Becky Massey (R) – – (615) 741-1648

Senator Art Swann (R) – – (615) 741-0981

Senator Bo Watson (R) – – (615) 741-3227

Senator Jeff Yarbro (D) – – (615) 741-3291

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. 

You can reach Adelia at

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