Texas Pro-Life, Disability Rights Advocates Fight Futile Care Law at Legislature

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 10, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Texas Pro-Life, Disability Rights Advocates Fight Futile Care Law at Legislature Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 10, 2006

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — Texas pro-life advocates and disability rights activists fought a state futile care law at the state legislature on Wednesday. They hope lawmakers will remove or revise a law that allows medical facilities to tell the family of a patient that they have 10 days to find another medical center willing to treat the patient because their doctors think the case is hopeless.

Families who have been affected by the law told lawmakers it needs to be changed so others don’t suffer the same fate.

Lanore Dixon, who battled with St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital over the fate of her sister Andrew Clark spokes for many families who have had problems with the futile care provision.

"This law allowed a hospital to steal precious time from our family during a loved one’s end days," she said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "Was that really necessary?"

Clark, 54, suffered complications following open heart surgery and required a ventilator and dialysis to survive. Her motor control faculties were damaged but, her family says her cognitive abilities were unaffected.

The hospital informed her family that her medical care would be discontinued in 10 days after a hospital committee decided Clark’s condition was beyond hope and refused further medical treatment.

It took legal action from a family attorney to prevent Clark’s treatment from being withheld, in an act of euthanasia.

Cynthia Deason, who took Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital to court to stop it from taking her disabled daughter off life support added, "I just don’t want anybody else to go through what I’ve gone through."

The two appeared before the Texas House Committee on Public Health, which took comments from both sides of the debate in what is expected to be a contentious battle in the 2007 legislative session.

Backers of the law said 10 days was sufficient time for families to find alternate care arrangements and Robert Fine, an ethicist for Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, said the opposition was just related to fallout from the Terri Schiavo case.

But about 150 people who attended the hearing on behalf of Texas Right to Life and the Texas chapter of Not Dead Yet disagreed.

Elizabeth Graham, executive director of Texas Right to Life, said, according to the Chronicle, that the families who are having problems with the law don’t expect miracles, but don’t want to be involved in killing their loved ones.

"They simply don’t want to be complicit in hastening their death," she said.

The Chronicle also reported that Greg Hooser, the head of a coalition of people on both sides trying to shape a compromise to the law, told lawmakers that is still under development.