Texas Hospital Association: The choice to end a patient’s life “should be left to medical professionals”

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In a letter filed with the 48th District Court of Tarrant County, the Texas Hospital Association (THA) has chosen to defend the deadly 10-Day Rule to end the life of 11-month-old baby girl Tinslee Lewis.  In their shocking letter, THA makes crystal clear that they believe the role and authority of families in making life-and-death decisions about their loved ones should be diminished, if not altogether eliminated, in favor of listening to the “experts.” 

In their own words:

”THA believes the decision to terminate interventions should be left to medical professionals working closely with the patient and their families. Those professionals’ education and experience provide unique insight during these deliberations, and such expertise should be respected… A decision to terminate interventions is a decision to free a patient from pain and suffering deemed unwarranted and, ultimately, to act in the patient’s best interests and well-being.”

Texas Right to Life and other advocates for Texas patients have long decried the 10-Day Rule, which allows a hospital ethics committee to pull the plug against a patient’s will with only 10 days’ notice.  We’ve seen hospitals use the law for different reasons, including to cover up malpractice or to discriminate against individuals with disabilities, but publicly, the hospitals say they invoke the law to protect patients from cruel, painful, and unwanted interventions.  However, THA seems to have thrown subtlety to the wind in this latest appeal in favor of practically shouting the quiet part out loud.

In plain English, THA states that doctors and hospital employees should have the ultimate say in a patient’s life-and-death decisions, not the patient’s designated medical decision-maker or even the patient herself.  To support this egregious claim, they cite the “unique insight” and “expertise” a medical professional brings to the table. While no one denies that the expert opinion of medical professionals is highly valuable and necessary to a family facing difficult choices about their loved one’s treatment, the choices at hand in cases like that of Tinslee Lewis are about whether or not patients should be provided the basic level of care necessary to live. The conflicts in cases of the 10-Day Rule are not truly about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of treatment, but about the decision to follow or ignore the expressed wishes of the patient and his or her system of values and beliefs.  These are things that the patient and family are necessarily uniquely qualified to know.

Or are they? THA concludes their letter:

“We ask the Court to defer to the expertise of the treatment team in such cases and weigh the well-being and best interests of the patient and those providers who spend the majority of the time with and caring for the patient in these situations.

THA’s view is that not only are medical providers more qualified to give their expert medical opinion, but that they are actually more qualified than the patient or her family to know what the patient herself would want in these cases.  They believe that the time a medical professional spends treating a patient gives a hospital sufficient justification to override her designated decision-maker’s protests and even her own written advance directive.

Texans should be alarmed that an organization heavily involved in setting state policy for hospitals has submitted a written opinion so dismissive of the role of families in making critical life-and-death medical decisions.  The simple fact is that the choice to cease basic care, i.e. providing food, water, and air to a patient, is not and never will be based on purely medical concerns. The deadly 10-Day Rule rips a decision based heavily on the patient’s own values and ethical beliefs out of the hands of the patient and family and places the priorities of the hospital above the life of the patient.  

In their own words, THA believes this is just and correct.  Pro-Life Texans beg to differ.

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2 Comments

  1. Barbara McPhee on

    I strongly disagree. Not all Medical conditions are resolved in a set X number of days. Granted some conditions will never improve. But to deny long term intervention on more complicated conditions is playing god over who has the right and how long one is allowed to heal or live.
    Government mandated insurance policies grant our society unlimited coverage benefits. Maybe we need more long term facilities?
    Hospital decision makers vary. One Facility cannot be the final factor to who lives or dies. If a provider and family cannot agree on a plan of care, take the matter before an impartial, consistent decision maker.

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