Texas Lawmakers See Competing Bills to Scrap, Defend 10-Day Futile Care Law

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 9, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Texas Lawmakers See Competing Bills to Scrap, Defend 10-Day Futile Care Law

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 9
, 2009

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — Texas lawmakers have introduced competing bills that would either scrap or defend the controversial futile care law that has come under national condemnation. The law allows medical facilities to give families just 10 days to find places to care for their loved ones when a medical center refuses treatment.

The statute allows hospitals and other medical facilities that believe a patient is too far gone to help to give their families just 10 days to find another facility that will offer the treatment or lifesaving medical care.

With names such as Emilio Gonzales and Andrea Clark making the headlines because they became potential euthanasia victims, pro-life advocates and disability rights activists have complained about the futility care law and want to see it changed or rescinded.

The first bill, HB 3325, which would permit an attorney to represent the family or patient at a hearing, give the patient and family a list of volunteers willing to help, and require life-sustaining treatment to continue pending transfer regardless of how long it takes to find a medical center willing to treat the patient.

The other bill, HB 2964, retains the right of hospitals to cut off treatment but extends the time limit a mere four days from 10 to 14 days for the family to find another medical facility willing to provide care.

The bill does make it so food and water delivered via a feeding tube cannot be withdrawn after the 14 days has expired, though medical care and treatment may.

Wesley J. Smith, a California bioethics attorney who has been monitoring futile care laws, says HB 3325 is the bill he prefers.

"The current Texas Futile Care law is a disgrace, permitting star chamber ethics committees to force patients off of wanted life sustaining treatment, with family given a mere 10 days to find another hospital," he explains. "This often proves impossible because these are expensive patients for which to care."

Smith is worried that the Catholic bishops of Texas, who supported a competing bill that ultimately defeated a measure to revoke the law, will make it difficult for HB 3325 to be approved this legislative session.

"I would prefer a total revocation of futile care empowerment altogether, but that isn’t politically feasible, apparently," he says.

Smith calls HB 2964 "an explicit defense of Futile Care Theory" and says the other measure is "the only bill that would eliminate most of the injustice that is the heart of futile care."

"My worry is that like last time, the real point of 2964 is to cynically confuse and divide the anti futile care forces, thereby allowing the current unjust law to remain firmly in place," he concludes.

Related web sites:
Texas Legislature – https://www.capitol.state.tx.us

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