Texas Legislation Challenges Futile Care Law That Hurts Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 15, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Texas Legislation Challenges Futile Care Law That Hurts Patients Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 15
, 2007

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — A coalition of pro-life legislators and those concerned about protecting the disabled are banding together to promote a bill in the state legislature that would revise the state’s futile care law.

The law has come under fire because it 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.

Sen. Bob Deuell, a physician and a Greenville Republican, is one of the prime sponsors of the bill.

"I understand the cost of health care; I’m not insensitive to that. But our medical system is so complicated now that I don’t think that 10 days is enough," he told the Dallas Morning News.

"If we’re going to err, let’s err on the side of life and give families a chance to get loved ones transferred without a 10-day window," he added.

Some health care professionals oppose the bill and say lifting the 10-day limit hurts the Advanced Directives Act, which they say is one of the best laws in the nation.

Dr. Robert Fine, oversees end-of-life cases at Baylor University and helped write the law for the Texas Medical Association, called the bill a publicity stunt.

"It’s a fundraising gimmick. … They have accused us, the providers, of murdering people," he told the newspaper.

But, that’s not the way patients and their families see it.

Lanore Dixon, who battled with St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital over the fate of her sister Andrew Clark represents 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."