Texas Groups Launch Proposal to Improve End-of-Life Care

National   |   Joe Pojman   |   Feb 4, 2013   |   9:42AM   |   Austin, TX

A coalition of Texas’ largest pro-life organizations, healthcare providers, and religious denominations joined together last week to endorse legislation introduced by state Senator Robert Deuell (R-Greenville) to improve the state’s handling of end-of-life care in a way that balances the protections of human life and a medical provider’s conscience (Senate Bill 303).

A joint statement of support was issued by the Texas Catholic Conference, Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, Catholic Health Association-Texas, Texas Alliance for Life, and the Christian Life Commission, and extended each organization’s appreciation to Senator Deuell for his leadership on this important issue.

In the statement, the organizations noted that while the Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999 helped to resolve disagreements between patients and physicians regarding end-of-life-care decisions, it lacked specificity and clarity. The reforms that the coalition has worked with Senator Deuell’s office to draft would be a tremendous step forward in empowering families and surrogates, protecting physicians and hospitals from having to provide morally unethical treatment, and avoiding the continuing threats of frivolous lawsuits.

“We are pleased with Sen. Robert Deuell’s bill. Our organizations look forward to working with Senator Deuell and the Texas Legislature during the 83rd Legislative Session to improve the advance directive act,” the statement read.

The organizations cited a number of principles that are addressed in the bill, including:



  • Improving notification and appeal processes for families or surrogates when a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order is used;
  • Ensuring that artificially administered nutrition and hydration cannot be withdrawn from a patient, unless continuing to provide that treatment would harm the patient;
  • Ensuring the process is applied only to patients for whom life-sustaining treatment would be medically inappropriate and ineffective, and are difficult for the patient to endure;
  • Respecting the conscience of physicians and other health care providers so the law does not require them to provide unethical treatment;
  • Extending the notification time to a family or surrogate from 48 hours to seven days in advance of an ethics committee meeting;
  • Extending the time to find an alternative willing provider from 10 to 14 days;
  • Providing the family or surrogate with a patient liaison to help guide them through the process;
  • Providing the family or surrogate with a free copy of the patient’s medical record;
  • Inviting the family or surrogate to attend the ethics committee meeting at which future care for their loved one will be discussed; and
  • Creating reporting requirements for hospitals or hospital systems that have one or more ethics committee meetings on the process outlined in the bill.