Bill seeks to charge violent patients with felony

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A bill aimed at protecting health care workers from violent patients cleared the House Friday over opponents' concerns it is too heavy-handed.

The bill would charge people who batter doctors, nurses, or other health workers with a felony punishable by up to 3 years behind bars.

Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Luke Malek said it would protect workers from out-of-control patients who may be under the influence of drugs.

Unlike other professionals, he said, an ER nurse can't refuse to help someone even if they act violently.

But other lawmakers voiced concerns the bill would unfairly punish the mentally ill or someone under extreme stress from an injury or illness.

The 42-26 vote sends the bill forward to the Senate, where a similar measure died in a tie last year.

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