This week, Texas Right to Life spearheaded efforts by grassroots activists to ensure that Pro-Life reforms on Do-Not-Resuscitate orders are not undermined by Health and Human Services Commission rules. Once again, Texans showed their commitment to Pro-Life principles and held government officials accountable for the protection of all human Life, including vulnerable patients subjected to secret and forced DNR orders.
Last year, Texas Right to Life led the charge of Pro-Life champions fighting to pass legislation requiring physicians and hospitals to acquire patient (or surrogate) consent before Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders were authorized. When serving as patient advocates across the state, Texas Right to Life found that hospitals were allowed to set their own policies governing in-hospital DNR orders because Texas law was completely silent. Some of these unregulated policies allowed doctors to issue secret and unwanted DNRs against the known wishes of the patient and the patient’s surrogate.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Pro-Life legislators to overcome political games in the Capitol, Senate Bill 11, which requires doctors to obtain consent before placing a DNR order, passed in the First Called Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature. After years of attempts, Pro-Life advocates saw a decisive victory by ending anti-Life hospital policies that threaten patients with secret DNR orders.
Unfortunately, the rules proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for implementing and enforcing SB 11 do not reflect the intent of the strong Pro-Life legislation or even the plain reading of the policy approved by our elected officials. The rules as currently written return all authority to hospitals and do not even state that patient consent must be obtained before placing a DNR order—the basic principle of patient rights that was clearly the core of the Pro-Life legislation.
Ever vigilant, Texas Right to Life reviewed the proposed rules and recruited Texans to send HHSC their public comments against the weak and ineffective rules. Pro-Life Texans who care about patients’ rights are hopeful that HHSC will heed the public comments urging the rules be rewritten to accurately reflect the important Pro-Life reform passed last year.
Texas Right to Life is requesting that the proposed rules on SB 11 outline the patient-centric requirements of SB 11 instead of simply requiring hospitals to write their own compliant policies. Other requests include asking HHSC to define ambiguous and dangerous terms used in the rules, ensuring patient consent is acquired in most cases, and clarifying that disagreements between medical professionals and patients shall not be resolved by an unaccountable hospital committee.
As the Primary Runoff Election approaches, Pro-Lifers across the state are campaigning tirelessly to ensure the strongest Pro-Life candidates are sent to Austin to pass more legislation protecting preborn children, pregnant women, and vulnerable patients. Additionally, the Pro-Life movement must ensure these legislative victories are not undermined by the often-overlooked HHSC rulemaking process that would effectively disable strong Pro-Life legislation. HHSC will receive public comments until May 20 and Texas Right to Life looks forward to seeing a greatly improved version of the rules published once the public comments of Pro-Life grassroots activists are considered.