Texas law (Texas Health and Safety Code 166.046) permits health care facilities to unilaterally decide to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment even in situations where the patient or the patient’s decision maker wants such care.
Legal analysis of the Texas law regarding “futile care”
There have been numerous failed attempts to change the law to provide greater patient protection. The last attempt for such bills failed to gain approval in the session ending in June 2011.
An additional attempt (SB 303) to change the law failed in May 2013. Many commentators believed that SB 303 would lessen, not increase, patient protection.
“End-of-life bill dead this session, key legislator says”
(American-Stateman — May 17, 2013)
[SB 303 fails to pass.]
All 13 Catholic bishops in Texas support Deuell’s bill, signing a letter saying it “respects the natural dying process.” It was countered by a letter from leaders of Eagle Forum, National Right to Life and almost 20 affiliated groups who criticized the bill, saying it improperly allows doctors “to make value judgments on the lives of those ailing patients.”
“NDY President Diane Coleman Submits Comments on Futile Care Policies”
(April 22, 2013)
The common thread running through stories we hear is that our lives with disability are seen as less worth living, so much less that health care providers too often think that death is the correct course. They press this viewpoint on us, our families and sometimes even overrule us when we disagree.
“A Texas Senate Bill Would Revise the State’s End-of-Life Procedure”
(New York Times — March 30, 2013)
State law allows physicians to discontinue treatment they deem medically futile. If a physician’s decision to end treatment contradicts the patient’s advance directive or the judgment of the patient’s surrogates, state law gives patients or their families 10 days to find another provider and appeal the doctor’s decision to a hospital ethics committee.
“Legislators struggle again with end-of-life decisions”
(Statesman — March 22, 2013)
For the fifth consecutive session, Texas legislators are struggling with an emotionally and politically delicate issue– how to resolve end-of-life disputes when doctors seek to let a patient die against the family’s wishes.
Testimony of Wesley J. Smith before the Texas Health and Human Services Committee in Opposition to S.B. 303
(March 19, 2014)
“Forced DNR Coming to Texas?”
(National Review — February 11, 2013)
The state with the worst futile care law in the nation now has legislation pending that would enable doctors to place DNR (do not resuscitate) orders on a patient’s chart without notice or permission even if the patient is competent! Text of S.B. 303.
“12-Year-Old Boy Doctors Wanted to Die Now in Rehab”
(National Review — October 11, 2011)
Look into the future if Obamacare remains. Texas has a futile care law permitting a hospital bioethics panel to refuse wanted life-sustaining treatment if they don’t think the patient’s life is worth the cost or has sufficient quality. It is like the old signs over restaurant doors, “We reserve the right to refuse service.” If the futile care protocol had been enforced, he might well be dead.
“Mother pleads to doctor to restore son’s food and water”
(Spero News — August 20, 2012
A 12-year-old boy, Zach Fernandez, was secretly denied food and water and life-saving treatment while at a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. His doctor also slipped a “do not resuscitate” order into the boy’s chart without the knowledge and consent of his parents.
“Forced Dehydration for 12-Year-Old Gunshot Victim?”
(National Review — August 20, 2012)
Texas has an awful futile care law. It permits hospital bioethics committee to impose member/doctors’ values that a patient’s life is not worth living based on quality of life.
On August 6, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the head. Even though a reliable diagnosis and prognosis for persistent unconsciousness requires at least 3 months, hospital personnel reported wend in rapid succession from “donate his organs” to “end his life” mode.
“Reliance on high-tech and high-turnover leading to lawsuits in ‘hospitalist’ heavy San Antonio”
(San Antonio Current — December 7, 2011)
Olga De La Zerda went into a Metropolitan Methodist Hospital on February 16 to determine if a bit of congestion was a sign of a more serious infection. It should have been a simple day of observation in the hospital….A death certificate says De La Zerda died of septic shock, with pneumonia and acute respiratory failure as contributing conditions. But relatives are convinced that a multitude of medications — administered against the family’s wishes caused adverse reactions that eventually shut down De La Zerda’s body…
“Teen’s move sidesteps futile-care controversy”
(Houston Chronicle — July 1, 2011)
Jordan Allen was transferred from Texas Children’s Hospital to a long-term acute-care facility on Thursday, beating the pediatric hospital’s plan to remove his life support by five days.
“Family fights to keep teen alive as hospital decides to end life support”
(KHOU 11 News — June 30, 2011)
The family of a 14-year-old boy is fighting to keep him alive after a hospital decided to discontinue treatment. Rosalyn Allen and her husband, Samuel Allen, received a letter last week from Texas Children’s Hospital saying that their son, Jordan, has both a “terminal and irreversible condition.” The letter explains that a bioethics panel has considered her son’s case and decided that “life-sustaining treatment should be discontinued.”