by Steven Ertelt
May 15, 2007
Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — The Texas state Senate has approved a bill that would revise a law that allows families just 10 days to find care for a loved one when a medical facility refuses to provide continued lifesaving medical treatment. Under the measure, families would get a minimum of 21 days to locate a medical facility that will care for the patient.
Current state law allows medical facilities to determine that a patient is too far gone to receive further care and they can tell families that they will stop lifesaving medical treatment in 10 days.
Pro-life groups and disability rights advocates have fought the law saying it promotes euthanasia and puts families in a difficult position.
Although lawmakers are keen on improving the law, pro-life groups and legislators were split on two bills — one upping the 10 day window and another providing an indefinite period of time to placed a loved one somewhere else.
Lawmakers eventually compromised on the bills as Sen. Bob Deuell and House Public Health Chair Dianne Delisi worked middle ground between their measures.
"This has been a very difficult bill to deal with," Duell told the Dallas Morning News. "There’s value in each and every life. As a physician, I can tell you no person is the same when they have a disease."
Two pro-life groups — Texas Right to Life and Texas Alliance for Life — disagreed on which bill was better, but TRTL came around to support the compromise when additional safeguards were added.
Those provisions will ensure that patients similar to Terri Schiavo who are marked "futile" by hospital ethics committees can continue to receive food and water while the family searchers for another medical facility.
The compromise bill also provides for a liaison to help families locate medical care when a hospital refuses to provide it.
Texas Right To Life director Elizabeth Graham told the newspaper that her group is now satisfied that are is "comfortable that [the bill] no longer weakens the current law."
The two lawmakers are said they are seeking funding to place additional beds for futile care patients in Texas nursing homes to provide a safe haven during the transfer time period.
The compromise bill now heads to the state House for its consideration.
After previously opposing the measure eight months ago, the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Medical Association are planning to tell a committee today that they support the change allowing more time as long as the law isn’t scrapped entirely.
During a hearing on the Duell bill 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."