During the tragic plight of the late Chris Dunn, who died at Houston Methodist Hospital two days before Christmas, many who heard his story were shocked by the callous nature of Chris’s treatment by the hospital. They regarded Chris as an anomaly suffering a singular case of egregious abuse at the hands of a misguided or malicious hospital decision-maker.
Sadly, Chris Dunn was not an anomaly. Chris Dunn’s death was preceded and will be followed by the deaths of countless other Texans who face the same fate as long as the draconian Texas Advance Directives Act stands.
The only difference between Chris Dunn’s story and the innumerable stories like his is that Chris’s family involved Texas Right to Life and actively brought media attention to their loved one’s battle.
In 2012, 12-year-old Zach faced similar discrimination. Like Dunn, Zach’s doctors deemed his care “futile.” Zach had suffered a gunshot wound to his head in the crossfire of a drug deal dispute. Zach’s hospital pressured his parents to sign an organ donation form, insisting that their son’s prognosis was hopeless. However, a brain scan one week later revealed that the original prognosis was probably wrong; Zach’s brain was still intact, and Zach even began breathing on his own without the assistance of a ventilator a few day after that.
Meanwhile, Zach’s hospital had invoked the Texas Advance Directives Act – the same draconian statute Houston Methodist invoked against Chris Dunn – and convened a committee which determined that, in spite of his progress, Zach’s care was futile. Because of an error within the committee, the ruling did not stand – but that did not stop Zach’s doctor from secretly removing food and water from Zach and slipping a Do-Not-Resuscitate order into Zach’s file. Hospital staff had decided not to treat Zach regardless of how hopeful his prognosis was.
Fortunately, Zach’s mother realized that the hospital was trying to starve her son to death and called Texas Right to Life for assistance. Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago helped the family move Zach to a hospital that agreed to provide him the care he deserved. Zach recovered in the hospital and will endure minimal long-term effects of his injury.
More recently, in Tomball, distraught father George Pickering II wielded a gun at his son’s bedside when Tomball Regional Medical Center tried to withdraw treatment from his son. George Pickering III had suffered a stroke and was receiving life-sustaining care at the hospital when doctors informed the family that they would be commencing a “terminal wean” – the first step in removing care from their patient. George’s treatment was deemed “futile,” but his father knew that George deserved a chance to show doctors that he was going to recover, and took drastic measures to save his son’s life. George III has made a full recovery, and the father and son are reunited after George II spent nearly a year in jail following the dangerous hospital standoff at his son’s bedside.
If you or a loved one is experiencing treatment discrimination or denial-of-treatment from a hospital or physician, Texas Right to Life may be able to help. We can connect the family with a patient advocate who will stand by your side as you navigate the hospital system. Together, we can bring awareness to the injustice inflicted on so many Texans – past, present, and future – by the Texas Advance Directives Act. And together, we can overturn the Texas Advance Directives Act.