By Texas Right to Life
Texas Right to Life announces that after weeks of intense negotiations, our concerns with House Bill 3074 are now addressed, and we are able to support the bill.
State Representative Drew Springer (R-Gainesville), the bill’s author, strategically and patiently handled myriad concerns of diverse stakeholders. Representative Springer was aided by State Representative Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), the Chairman of the Republican Caucus, who relentlessly orchestrated negotiations with all the stakeholders.
HB 3074 will limit the withdrawal of food and water, called “artificially administered food and water” or “AANH” in the bill, from hospitalized patients. The originally filed version of the bill included some broadly drafted exceptions that would have enshrined quality of life value ethics into law, but the subjectivity of those loopholes has been removed.
As revised, HB 3074 marks a first positive step in what remains a long journey of reforming the Texas Advance Directives Act. This was no easy task for Representative Springer, because he was under pressure to push his bill with or without Texas Right to Life’s support.
The Texas Advance Directives Act, found in Chapter 166 of our Health and Safety Code, allows a hospital committee or physician to withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment, including food and water, from a patient after providing only ten days notice, despite the patient’s advance directive or expressed medical decisions. Such withdrawal of treatment can and has sped the death of some patients victimized by this draconian statutory process and is protected with complete legal immunity.
While Texas Right to Life will continue to pursue patient protections and larger reforms to the Texas Advance Directives Act, limiting the circumstances in which food and water can be withdrawn is progress. Representative Springer considered our decade of experience as the only organization that helps patients and families facing futile care judgments; he heard our concerns and those of many others about the pitfalls of broad language, accepted our changes, and brought aboard the other stakeholders.
The main changes that were negotiated after the House Committee on State Affairs heard testimony are as follows:
The ten-day transfer period cannot begin until the patient or his family is given a copy of the relevant medical records for the current hospital admission.
The terms “medically contraindicated” and “life-threatening” were added to clarify that AANH can only be withdrawn if AANH would seriously exacerbate a life-threatening medical problem.
The troubling term “suffering” was deleted from the bill so that the hospital committee could not impose a quality of life value judgment on the patient as the basis for withdrawing AANH.
Another exception was positively amended to read “medically ineffective in prolonging the patient’s life.”
The bill now clarifies that neither the hospital committee nor the doctor is obligated to provide AANH if doing so is contrary to the patient’s clearly documented desire to refuse such treatment.