Chris Dunn, who passed away at Houston Methodist Hospital on Wednesday, was a loving son, brother, and friend. Chris served his local and national communities as an EMT, police dispatcher, and employee at the Department of Homeland Security. Chris was an American hero.
At the same time, Chris was every Texan. The 46-year-old and his family suffered tremendous grief at the hands of a draconian Texas law that affects us all. Not one Texan is immune to provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA-Chapter 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code) which allows nameless, faceless hospital committees to withdraw life-sustaining care despite objection from the patient and his family, and regardless of any written legal document outlining the patient’s wishes. They can do this based on a discriminatory “quality-of-life” judgment that a patient’s life and continued care are “futile.”
Chris’s final days mirrored those of the countless Texans who continue to be victimized by the TADA. What was unique about Chris’s case was not the fact that Houston Methodist invoked the TADA against his will to live; rather, what was unique was his family’s desire that Texas Right to Life tell his story to raise awareness of the plight of so many like Chris. At least four other Texas patients (of whom we are aware) are fighting against these callous hospital committees for their Right to Life.
What happened to Chris Dunn could happen to any Texan. Your closest loved ones – even you yourself – can become a victim of the draconian provisions of the TADA during any moment of your hospitalization. In the wake of Chris Dunn’s ordeal, many Texans have voiced fear of being hospitalized in the state of Texas – and rightly so. But worse, there is no guaranteed method of avoiding becoming a victim of the TADA. Doctors and hospitals may invoke the provision for any reason whatsoever, and the law leaves patients and their surrogates legally powerless in the face of such a decision. The law includes no provision for legal appeal. One’s only recourse is stalling the hospital long enough to secure a transfer to another facility – a facility that could, in turn, likewise invoke the TADA.
The Texas Advance Directives Act must be repealed immediately. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise. Chris Dunn was not the first, and he will not be the last. Let us protect future victims and honor the memories of Chris and all other past victims by working together to protect all Texas lives, from fertilization to natural death.