For years, Texas Right to Life has drawn attention to the draconian Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) that allows hospitals and doctors to withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment against the expressed wishes of a patient or his surrogate, including food and water. Of utmost concern is the unfettered power of physicians to issue unauthorized and unwanted Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Orders, and the use of hospital committees to determine the fate of patients who object to death sentences imposed on them.
Texas Right to Life has assisted hundreds of patients and their families who have been forced to fight for civil liberties that should be protected by law. We have pushed for legislative reform for many years, met time and again by resistance from bloated Texas healthcare associations, and, in recent years, by Pro-Life legislators who were misinformed by politically corrupt organizations.
Rather than a fair, balanced, and open debate on policy, these Austin-based organizations have turned this discussion into a political fight. Regrettably, the issues are obfuscated and blurred into what appears to be an unfortunate turf war and the lives of hundreds of patients are left hanging in the balance while the Legislature acts…or doesn’t.
The efforts of these few local activists actually put more power in the hands of the hospital imperialists and with more latitude with which to make decisions to withdraw treatment. This is euthanasia, imposed death, physician or hospital-mandated death, and a major part of the Pro-Life movement and agenda. Some scholars have even commented that the Texas Advance Directives Act is worse than Obamacare, because at least with Obamacare, treatment decisions and approvals by the bureaucracy will take forever, but under TADA, hospitals themselves make these decisions and patients only have ten days.
A handful of legislators are miffed that their Pro-Life rankings dropped in 2013 because of their support of a bill that further endangered hospitalized patients. We grant that 2013 was a brutal year for Pro-Lifers due to special sessionS needed to pass the historic Pro-Life Omnibus HB 2. But these same dinged legislators continue to support those in leadership who play the smoke and mirrors games that made a special session necessary; they are fighting their own turf war—and were prepared to walk away from the battlefield complacent that 78,000 unborn babies would have been killed without the special sessions in Austin in 2013. Legislators are free to support euthanasia measures and Pro-Life measures, of course, but their Pro-Life rankings will reflect that.
In the interest of protecting patients, Texas Right to Life will hold legislators accountable who feign concern for patients while proving more committed to healthcare cronies. Texas Right to Life has experienced first-hand the plight of patients victimized by the state’s sanction of discrimination against those with disabilities. We have been a voice for them – even traveling to their hospitals to speak up for their rights in the face of life-threatening policies. We have dealt first-hand with hospital ethics committees – which bioethicist Wesley J. Smith accurately deemed “death panels” last week – as quality of life value judgments are made about patients with terminal illnesses, permanent injuries, or diminished consciousness.
In 2012, for example, Texas Right to Life’s Legislative Director, John Seago, helped a 12-year-old gunshot victim whose physician was a greater threat to his recovery than his trauma. Zach was accidently shot in the head and underwent surgery at a nearby hospital to treat his wound. When he was transferred to another hospital, his file contained misinformation about the nature of his surgery, stating that part of Zach’s brain had been removed—which was not true. Even after his hospital discovered the error in Zach’s records, the hospital began a crusade to end the little boy’s life.
The hospital convened a death panel (“ethics committee”) in an attempt to rule that, if Zach were not transferred to another hospital within ten days, his treatment would be terminated. In other words, Zach would die because of hospital negligence—now fully protected by law. A procedural error prevented that order from going into effect, but the hospital continued to fight against Zach’s will to live and his distraught parents. Three days after the death panel convened, Zach could breathe on his own, but his doctor secretly ordered that Zach’s food and water be withdrawn and issued a DNR Order into his chart. Zach’s mother discovered what the doctor had done, and contacted John Seago, who advised her how to address the doctor. When she did, the doctor admitted that he did not wish to treat Zach. Texas Right to Life assisted Zach’s mother in moving him to the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where he continued to recover, and later moved on to an in-patient rehabilitation facility, where his progress continued. Zach’s injury was survivable, and he is still alive today. But sadly, the anti-Life attitude of some Texas hospital administrators and some Texas physicians is not survivable for all patients.
Because we know the injustice rendered against patients by our state’s policies, Texas Right to Life will only support legislation that delivers real options and real change to protect these patients.