Hearing today on protecting the right to life-sustaining medical treatment
by Emily KebodeauxTuesday, April 12, 2011
Texas Right to Life is in the Texas Capitol everyday during the Legislative Session to advance the Pro-Life cause. However, our aim is not solely to protect women and save the unborn. Increasingly, one of the main attacks on the sanctity of life in Texas is in hospitals and health facilities where the medical decisions for life-sustaining treatment of the disabled, the sick, and the elderly are being disregarded and even overruled.
HB 3520, by Representative Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), will be heard in the House Human Services committee today. A measure on which Texas Right to Life and Representative Hughes have been working together for the past four legislative sessions, HB 3520 would ensure that all patients have the right to direct their own healthcare decisions.
The need for this law is great. Currently in Texas, physicians are legally allowed to withdraw life-sustaining treatment (including food and water) from a patient despite a patient’s advance directive or expressed wishes. Once the physician’s decision is made and then validated by the ethics committee at the hospital, the patient and the patient’s family have only ten days to find another facility or physician. The physician or facility is not obligated to treat the patient beyond the tenth day, which could lead to actively hastening the death of the patient.
Rarely are transfers effectuated either by the family or the facility within the ten-day allotment. Texas Right to Life seeks to change the law so that it is the responsibility of the facility to actuate the transfer and provide life-sustaining treatment to the patient until the transfer is complete.
Through the years, Texas Right to Life has served as patient advocates for more than fifty families who have experienced the frustration and hopelessness that accompanies the potential withdrawal of treatment from their loved one. These families feel that their hands are tied when it comes to fighting the decisions of the hospital, doctors, and ethics committee to prevent the hastening of the death of their loved one.
What we have discovered through first hand experience with these cases is that finding an alternate place of care for the patient is not the problem: Finding, securing, and effectuating the transfer within the ten-days allowed by the current law is the problem. Ten days are simply not enough time. Providing the patient with the necessary care until a transfer to a more appropriate care facility is secured ensures that the medical decisions of families and patients who desire life-sustaining treatment are respected.
We are excited and blessed to have the opportunity to bring this vital issue once again to the attention of our legislators. The referral of HB 3520 to a very favorable committee made up of a majority of staunchly Pro-Life champions, which is also a committee on which Representative Hughes serves, makes TRTL anticipate a wonderful outcome for today’s hearing.
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