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Lawmakers Want to Cover Behinds

February 16, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 128

JEFFERSON CITY - Some Missouri lawmakers are trying to keep their posteriors out of public view -- as well as yours.

Inspired by personal experience, a few legislators are moving to mandate "dignity gowns" for hospital patients to protect the privacy of their rear ends.

The bill is sponsored by Sam Gaskill, R-Washburn, who says a four-day hospital experience convinced him lawmakers needed to act.

"Some people don't like to go to the hospital at all because of the humiliating gowns," Gaskill said.

Gaskill cites the experience of Rep. Ralph Monaco, D-Raytown, who passed out on New Year's Day and refused to go to the hospital. Gaskill claims one reason Monaco didn't go was his aversion to hospital wear.

But Monaco says isn't sure he'll support Gaskill's bill. "Lawmakers shouldn't be telling the medical community what to do, but hospitals do need to take a long look at the respecting the dignity of the patient," Monaco said.

At least some hospitals say patients can bring their own gowns. But Gaskill says that's not enough. The bill requires hospitals to offer "dignity gowns" to patients.

The required gowns would have to cover the patient completely from neck to knee. That type of gown would have to be offered to every patient unless another type of gown was medically necessary.

Gaskill says many ill people aren't willing to question medical authority.

"You feel it's a routine - and that you're at somebody's command," he said. He adds that people who need care can't be expected to make a fuss.

The situation is more acute for larger Missourians - a category that includes 250-pound Rep. Jerry King, R-Butler. "Jerry didn't like his butt flapping in the breeze," Gaskill said.

"I felt like I was running around naked after I got out of the emergency room," King said. "They should at least have an additional tie down the back." King said he supports the bill.

The bill is also focused on the embarrassment felt by older women, Gaskill says. "They tend to be very modest about having a doctor examine them in the first place," he said.

Gaskill says he hears compliments on his bill on a near-daily basis. "We're just looking out for the little guy," he said. Well, maybe not just "little" guys.