Hospital Threatens to Remove Woman’s Life Support Over Her Husband’s Objections

State   Kimberlyn Schwartz   May 7, 2019   |   1:52PM    Houston, Texas

Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital informed Donald Jones on Thursday that they would pull the plug on his wife against his directive in 10 days, scheduling her to die on May 13, 2019.  The Texas 10-Day Rule forces everyday Texans to race against the clock to save their loved ones.  Donald now calls upon Texans to contact their legislators to repeal the 10-Day Rule, a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act.

Donald’s wife, Carolyn, is a 61-year-old African-American woman currently undergoing dialysis treatment and is breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.  Now he is forced to race against the clock to protect his wife.  Donald contacted Texas Right to Life, which has assisted over 400 10-day victims like this, including the prominent case of Chris Dunn at Houston Methodist Hospital in 2015.

Donald and Carolyn have been married for 39 years, live in Beaumont, and have an adult daughter.  Carolyn suffered a stroke in December 2017 and has transferred between different rehabilitation facilities since, landing in Memorial Hermann Southwest in November 2018.  Donald has stayed by her side throughout her recovery and setbacks.

Carolyn is conscious but cannot communicate verbally due to intubation.

The hospital first attempted to invoke the 10-Day Rule on March 8, 2019, but the Jones’ lawyer negotiated with the hospital to pause the countdown.  Since then, Carolyn’s health has improved and three facilities in Houston have agreed to care for her, pending Donald’s ability to secure Medicaid coverage.  Donald has spent the last two months trying to clear complicated legal and financial hurdles to save his wife’s life, which the hospital has scheduled to end on Monday, May 13.

Now, he’s begging Texas legislators to eliminate the 10-day countdown for patients like Carolyn.  “This law has to be changed.  How can I care for my wife when I’m forced into this 10-day situation?” said Donald. “This could actually happen to anyone.”

Texans who want to help Donald and Carolyn should contact their state legislators at TexasRightToLife.com/10.

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What is the 10-Day Rule?

The 10-Day Rule is a provision in the Texas Advance Directives Act (Chapter 166.046 of the Texas Health & Safety Code) that allows a hospital ethics committee to withdraw basic life-sustaining care, like a ventilator or dialysis, from a patient against her expressed will, her advance directive, or the instruction of her surrogate decision-maker.  Ten days after informing the patient or surrogate of the committee’s decision, the hospital can remove basic life-sustaining care from a patient.

Committees can withdraw care for any reason and the patient cannot appeal the decision.  Even if the patient is conscious, coherent, and actively requests to stay alive, the 10-Day-Rule allows the hospital to overrule the patient’s will.

Who are Donald and Carolyn Jones?

Donald and Carolyn Jones have been married for 40 years, live in Beaumont, have an adult daughter, and enjoy riding motorcycles and fishing.  Carolyn (61-years-old) suffered a stroke in December 2017 and has transferred between different rehabilitation facilities since, landing in Memorial Hermann Southwest in November 2018.  Donald has stayed by her side throughout her recovery and setbacks.

Why did Memorial Hermann invoke the 10-Day Rule on Carolyn Jones?

The hospital is not required to provide a reason for invoking the 10-Day Rule.  Such reasons can include non-medical reasons, like financial reasons, discrimination, or subjective quality of life judgments.

What is Carolyn’s prognosis?

Carolyn suffered a stroke in December 2017 and has transferred between different rehabilitation facilities since, landing in Memorial Hermann Southwest in November 2018.  She has undergone dialysis for years and began receiving breathing assistance through a ventilator in February 2019.  She has made progress in being weaned off the ventilator over the last two months.

Carolyn is conscious but cannot communicate verbally due to intubation.  She tracks movement with her eyes and responds to stimulus.  She can move the right side of her body, cries, and expresses frustration when uncomfortable.

Is the hospital starting the 10-day process because treatment isn’t working?

No.  Carolyn’s ventilator and dialysis are benefiting her health.  Two months ago the hospital attempted to withdraw her ventilator and dialysis, scheduling her to die on March 17, but because Donald Jones found a lawyer to help him fight the 10-Day Rule, Carolyn is still alive and her condition has improved since then.  Her health could improve in the future if the hospital stops the 10-day countdown.

Can Donald transfer Carolyn to another facility?

Yes, three facilities in Houston have already agreed to accept Carolyn and provide care.  The transfer depends on Donald’s ability to secure Medicaid coverage.  For middle-class Americans like Donald, the hurdles of the health care system are more complicated and require more time, making the 10-day countdown even more unjust for the average citizen.

For two months, Donald has navigated the red tape of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, legal aid, and visiting a private lawyer to transfer his wife to a willing provider.  Donald’s court date to become his wife’s financial power of attorney (his last step before securing Medicaid coverage) is two days before the hospital has scheduled Carolyn to die.