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Bill would tighten medical alert service rules

A draft of legislation intended to create government oversight of medical alert services says providers should request emergency help immediately if a subscriber fails to respond to voice-to-voice communication or face hefty fines for injuries.

The legislation comes about three months after Christine Talley, 69, of Danville, pressed her Phillips Lifeline medical alert button for help because she was having a heart attack.

Lifeline associates attempted to reach Talley, who couldn't respond. Emergency responders were called too late, said Talley's son, Jim. And that was after family arrived at the home to help and called 911 themselves.

Christine Talley died.

Her family wants government regulation of Phillips Lifeline and similar companies to protect others who use medical alert devices.

Only Texas has such laws, bill supporters say.

Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Junction City, has sponsored the "Christine Talley Act," and plans to prefile the bill within two weeks.

Jim Talley said other legislators have expressed interest in the bill and might support it.

He said he hopes to show lawmakers that the community also backs the bill.

More information is available at christineslaw.com. And a petition of support is located at the Lexington Senior Citizens Center on Nicholasville Road.

"Right now, my goal is on the state level to get this passed," Jim Talley said. "Then we'll go on to Washington."

As of yesterday, the bill placed responsibility for regulation under the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. But, Harmon said, the state Board of Emergency Medical Services may be better suited for that role. He expects the bill will be modified before and during its move through committee.

The bill also says personal emergency response providers using voice-to-voice communication should have 911 as a default contact unless instructed to do otherwise by the customer.

Evidence of a general liability insurance policy, for personal injuries and property damage, should be required before service providers can obtain a license from the cabinet, the bill says.

Phillips Lifeline associates have declined to discuss the Talley case, citing privacy regulations.

The company, based in Framingham, Mass., has trained employees who attempt to notify a subscriber when the alert button is pressed. Associates then contact relatives in the subscriber's personal database. Emergency responders are contacted if associates can't reach relatives or that option is requested.

Phillips Lifeline tried to contact Christine Talley's relatives on Memorial Day and left phone messages.

Jim Talley, who paid about $35 a month for the Lifeline service, said associates waited too long for a return phone call.

Maybe, he says, emergency responders with proper equipment could have saved his mother, who regained consciousness briefly before she was transported to a hospital.

Talley and his wife, Debbie, found Christine Talley slumped over in her bathroom tub about five minutes after she pressed the alert button at 11:23 a.m.

"In the end, after all this, let's say 'together we did make a difference.' That's the main thing," Talley said.

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