By Ashley Leenerts, Texas Right to Life
It may come as a surprise that in the deep red state of Texas vulnerable hospitalized patients have less protection than they do in every other state. Healthcare providers themselves are also NOT protected for refusing to perform procedures that may violate their conscience. This is why Texas Right to Life has made Defending Pro-Life Values in Healthcare a priority issue for the Texas Legislature in 2023. We must pass strong bills that will protect defenseless patients and dedicated healthcare workers in the state of Texas!
What is the problem for Texas patients?
Within the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) is the anti-Life 10-Day Rule. This dangerous law permits a hospital committee to unilaterally withdraw a patient’s basic life-sustaining treatment (such as a ventilator) for any reason and with a mere 10-day notice. This decision can override the patient’s explicit decision regarding such treatment, an advance directive, or a medical power of attorney.
No other state in the country has a similar law with no avenue for appealing the decision. Within those 10 days the family can work to transfer their loved one to a different physician or facility who will honor the medical decision to continue life-sustaining treatment. If a transfer is not achievable within this short time frame, the hospital has complete immunity to pull the plug, hastening the patient’s death.
Even if the patient is conscious, coherent, and actively requesting the continuation of life-sustaining treatment, the 10-Day Rule gives the hospital unilateral power to overrule the patient’s decision. This law affects infants, children, and hospitalized adults who are all unjustly denied their constitutional right to due process and Right to Life under the 10-Day Rule.
Now is the time for Texas to fix this lethal law and protect vulnerable patients. This legislative session, Representative Stephanie Klick (R – Fort Worth) has filed House Bill 3162 and Senator Drew Springer (R – Muenster) has filed Senate Bill 1724 to bring much needed changes to this harmful statute, including extending the number of days patients and their families have to facilitate a transfer to another physician or facility which will honor the medical decision.
Patients are not the only ones who are harmed by anti-Life values infiltrating healthcare. All healthcare professionals should be protected from being forced to engage in procedures or trainings with which they conscientiously object. While Texas does have some limited conscience protections in place for certain healthcare workers, this legislative session Texas Right to Life is advocating for broader protections for the consciences of our healthcare professionals.
Currently, there is a patchwork of federal and state conscience protections in place, but Texas lacks an overarching protection that addresses any healthcare service for all healthcare professionals. At the state level, doctors and nurses are protected from being forced to participate in abortion, but they are not protected from other objectionable procedures, and other healthcare professionals lack protection altogether.
As a state, we must protect medical professionals from being forced to act against their moral convictions, causing them to flee their specialties. All medical professionals should be able to practice while retaining the right to conscientiously object to certain procedures, training, or medical decisions. Protection of conscience for healthcare providers ensures diversity and innovation amongst those working in healthcare, and protects certain populations that might be disproportionately adversely affected by lack of conscience protections. Such an overarching protection would also protect Texas medical students from being forced to train in a procedure with which they object.
This session, Pro-Life priority legislation House Bill 319 by Representative Tom Oliverson, M.D. (R – Cypress) and Senate Bill 2199 by Senator Bob Hall (R – Edgewood), would provide broad state-level enforcement to protect the ethical convictions of all healthcare professionals, balancing the practice of their career, their individual moral beliefs, and patients’ rights.
As we face an increasingly hostile environment from Washington, D.C., the Texas Legislature has another chance to safeguard the consciences of our healthcare professionals while simultaneously providing quality healthcare to their Texas patients.
These and other policies fall within the priority umbrella of Defending Pro-Life Values in Healthcare. The 2023 legislative session is already over halfway done, but Texas Right to Life will continue fighting to advance these important bills to protect Texas patients and healthcare professionals.