Today, Texas Right to Life joins the family of Chris Dunn in calling for Houston Methodist Hospital to stand against the law that robbed Chris’s rights in his final days. In November of 2015, Houston Methodist invoked the Texas 10-Day-Law (Chapter 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code), which grants a hospital committee the power to decide that a patient’s life-sustaining care can be removed with only 10-days’ notice.
The 10-Day-Law strips the patient’s constitutional right to due process, and the committee’s decision overrules a patient’s expressed wishes or those of the patient’s lawful surrogate. In other words, hospital panels have the right to decide which medically vulnerable Texans live and die.
Chris was a 46-year-old son, brother, and friend who became ill. Any one of us could face a similar fate. Chris and his devoted mother, Evelyn, first learned of this draconian and unjust law when Houston Methodist informed them in 2015 that Chris would be removed from life-sustaining care just two days before Thanksgiving.
Chris and his family acquired legal representation and fought Houston Methodist’s attempt to remove life-sustaining care. Chris was conscious and communicative, repeatedly conveying his desire to continue treatment. Arranging a transfer to another facility willing to treat him was difficult because he was receiving breathing assistance and was gravely ill with an undiagnosed condition.
Not only did Houston Methodist relentlessly persist in their attempt to use the 10-Day-Law to end Chris’s care, the hospital also filed an injunction seeking custodial guardianship of Chris. The injunction would have given a Houston Methodist employee the power to make Chris’s medical decisions instead of his mother. Houston Methodist also barred visitors from Chris and his family, further undermining his rights and bringing pain to his distressed family.
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On December 23, 2015, Chris passed away after succumbing to his illness. Houston Methodist continued life-sustaining care in his final hours, and for that his family is grateful. However, Houston Methodist’s legal threats and overt attempts to take away Chris’s rights were unjust, and the 10-Day-Law that gave them that power is unjust. In the wake of Chris’s death, his mother filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the statute. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has stated the many reasons that the 10-Day-Law is unconstitutional and has indicated he would not defend the law in court.
Under current Texas law, a nameless, faceless hospital committee has the power to decide when a patient’s life-sustaining care is ended, even if such lethal action is against the patient’s wishes. Houston Methodist used the 10-Day-Law to threaten Chris’s Right to Life in his final days. Now, the hospital should stand for justice and work to end the statute. If Chris and his family had not bravely shared their story, Houston Methodist may have been able to quietly cover up their inhumane treatment of a vulnerable patient. Thanks to Chris’s courage and the ongoing dedication of his mother, Evelyn, we know the truth. We ask Houston Methodist to acknowledge the injustice and to work toward ending the 10-Day-Law and we encourage other Texans to do the same.