Christina's Law awaits Senate approval

Hospitals required to prevent patients from being locked into restrooms
March 4, 2014
A bill requiring hospitals to provide quick access to locked restrooms is moving through the state legislature. SOURCE FILE

A bill mandating a quick means to access locked hospital bathrooms is moving through the Delaware state legislature.

The bill, Christina's Law, was named for a 14-year-old girl who died in 2011 after staff at Beebe Medical Center could not open the door to a restroom inside of which she had collapsed. The measure tasks the Department of Health and Social Services with preventing future incidents.

Rep. Harvey Kenton, R-Milford, was prime sponsor of the measure, which sailed through the House of Representatives last year with no opposition.

“It was supposed to go to the Senate last legislative session, but there was a huge volume of bills,” Kenton said. “The Senate ran out of time.”

On Jan. 30, the bill was released from the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. Kenton said he expects the Senate to vote on the bill by mid-March, since the legislature is currently in recess.

“I haven't heard any opposition,” said Kenton.

Bonnie and Eddie Atkins, parents of Christina, lobbied for the bill after Christina's death. It took Beebe officials 10 minutes to open the door after Christina collapsed. She was transported to A.I. duPont Hospital where she died two days later from toxic shock syndrome.

After filing a lawsuit against Beebe in 2012 seeking compensation for emotional pain and anguish, the family recently settled with the hospital. A hospital spokesman said no details of the settlement would be released.

Christina's family moved to southern California in October to live closer to relatives, said Eddie Atkins. They continue to advocate for safer restrooms and have shared Christina's story with their West Coast community.

“The more people that know her story, that's music to our ears,” he said.

Atkins said they have stayed in touch with Rep. Kenton to track the bill's progress, and they plan to attend Cape's graduation in the spring in memory of Christina. The family hopes to coordinate a bill signing of Christina's law with the unveiling of a new program at Beebe Healthcare, he said.

In honor of Christina, the hospital has started a Great Catch Program for employees who identify potential safety issues. A plaque naming Christina will be hung in the hospital and will include a photo of employees noted for reporting problems.

Atkins said the family is pleased with the program in Christina's name.

"We're still working to get her story out about what happened," he said. "We want to thank everyone for all they've done."

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