AUSTIN, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — Texas has passed a bill to amend the state’s infamous “futile care” law that allows hospitals to remove patients from life support against their will after 10 days.
The Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), signed by then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999, empowers hospitals to withdraw a patient’s life-sustaining care, such as a ventilator or dialysis, regardless of the patient’s wishes or even whether he or she is conscious and able to communicate.
Under the law, physicians and hospital ethics committees can terminate treatment at their discretion and can do so based on subjective judgments about a patient’s “quality of life.”
If a hospital decides to end a patient’s life, the patient or his or her family have just 10 days to find a new facility for treatment — a policy known as the “10-Day Rule.” Hospitals have no obligation to provide any procedures necessary to facilitate a patient’s transfer, and the process cannot be appealed.
But a bill recently passed by the Texas legislature would make major changes to the law, though without repealing it entirely.
House Bill 3162, authored by Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick, extends the 10-day transfer period to 25 days and prohibits hospital ethics committees from withdrawing treatment based on “quality of life” determinations or an unrelated disability.
It also requires hospitals to perform certain procedures, including tracheostomies and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomies, if a patient needs them to transfer to another facility. The 25-day countdown would not begin until a hospital provides such procedures, according to Texas Right to Life, a pro-life organization that has fought the TADA for years.
The bill additionally allows a patient’s surrogate to revoke a do-not-resuscitate order issued by a doctor and bans hospitals from removing the life support of someone who is not “declared incompetent” or “mentally or physically incapable of communication.”
“Too often, the judgments made in these committee meetings are based on the idea that the patient’s life is ‘too hard’ or is ‘not worth living,’” Texas Right to Life said in a press release earlier this month. “A stranger’s personal feelings should not be the reason to bring about the death of another individual.”
“As patient advocates, we have seen a number of cases where the 10-Day Rule was initiated against patients who were conscious and could actively speak for themselves. It should be obvious that no individual should be making life or death decisions for patients who can make decisions for themselves,” the group added.
House Bill 3162 reforms the hospital ethics committee meeting process as well, mandating that hospitals provide patients and their families notice at least seven days before a meeting about whether to discontinue the patient’s care. The current law only requires 48 hours’ notice. Family members and their attorneys would be allowed to participate in the meetings.
Hospitals, moreover, would be required to explain in writing their reasoning for removing someone from life support and to report cases for which they use the process.
The bill passed the Texas House last week in an overwhelming 136-1 vote and cleared the Senate on Thursday.
It now heads to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has previously condemned the TADA as unconstitutional, Texas Right to Life announced Thursday night.
HB 3162 passed the Senate & heads to the governor! This is an important incremental step in the right direction to protect vulnerable TX patients & families
Thank you @StephanieKlick @DrewSpringer @SenBryanHughes @TanParkerTX @loiskolkhorst for your work on this #prolife #txlege
— Texas Right to Life (Text ProLife to 40237) (@TXRightToLife) May 18, 2023
The TADA has gained notoriety in recent years due to several high-profile cases of Texas hospitals attempting to starve or suffocate patients against their or their families’ wishes.
One such patient was Tinslee Lewis, a girl who was born premature at Fort Worth’s Cook County Medical Center in 2019 with a rare congenital heart defect and lung disease.
Ten months after her birth, an ethics committee decided to end her life by taking her off of a ventilator, claiming that she had no chance of improvement. The hospital also refused to perform a tracheostomy on her, which is standard medical practice, preventing her from transferring to a new medical center.
But Tinslee’s mother fiercely opposed the decision to let her daughter die and released videos showing the girl awake and moving. She successfully fought Cook County Medical Center up to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled in 2021 that the hospital could not withdraw Tinslee’s treatment.
Tinslee, now four years old, was sent home from Cook County Medical Center in April 2022.
While the Texas Republican Party and top conservative organizations have long called for reform of the TADA, the law has had strong support from an unexpected corner: Catholic bishops and hospitals.
The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops (TCCB) has filed friend-of-the-court briefs defending the TADA and attacked Texas Right to Life for opposing it, as LifeSiteNews previously reported.
The bishops — with the notable exception of Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler — also publicly backed Cook County Medical Center in its efforts to end the life of Tinslee Lewis, a move that sparked widespread outrage among faithful Catholics.
The TCCB endorsed House Bill 3162 in May, after opposing similar reform efforts in past years, saying that the new bill “was developed after months of extensive negotiation.”