The Texas Senate (meeting in Austin) will debate a very important bill to revise Texas' end-of-life laws as early as Thursday. Please immediately contact and urge Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and your Texas Senator to support SB 303, a pro-life bill that protects patients from premature withdrawal of food and water, increases compassionate communication with families members, and protects provider conscience.
Please call or email ASAP. Your two call or emails will take about three minutes, but they may save many lives!
Please make your contacts by Thursday, and feel free to use your own words.
Sample Phone Message (Please call during business hours):
"Hello, my name is (name). I live at (address). Please ask (Lt. Governor Dewhurst / Senator __________) to support Senate Bill 303, the pro-life end of life bill. Thank you."
Sample Email Message:
Dear (Governor Dewhurst / Senator ____________):
I urge you to support Senate Bill 303, the pro-life end of life bill to help families protect loved ones near the end of life. This bill prevents secret DNAR orders ("Do Not Attempt Resuscitation"), prevents the denial of food and water so patients are not involuntarily starved or dehydrated to death, increases the dispute resolution process from 12 to 28 days, and preserves conscience protections so physicians are not required to provide futile or harmful procedures indefinitely.
Why is reform necessary?
The Texas Advance Directives Act lacks clarity given the complexity of end-of-life care. It contains definitions that could be interpreted to permit the withdrawal of care for patients, who may have an irreversible, but non-terminal, condition. It also fails to ensure that all patients are provided with ordinary care (i.e., nutrition and hydration). In addition, reforms are needed to provide more compassionate communication between medical professionals and patients’ families when disagreements arise.
Some believe that hospitals and doctors should be required to continue life support indefinitely until transfer to another facility is accomplished. Such approaches impose indefinite treatment on dying patients, and ignore the reasonable medical and ethical judgment of professionals. Requiring physicians and hospitals to continue to provide non-beneficial treatment that they rightly believe is unethical and inappropriate violates their freedom of conscience. Such a provision takes the decision-making power away from patients, families and health care professionals and injects a government decision into what is one of the most difficult times in life.
Elements of Reform in Senate Bill 303 (HB 1444)*:
- Improves notification and appeal processes for families or surrogates when a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order is used;
- Ensure that artificially administered nutrition and hydration cannot be withdrawn from a patient, unless continuing to provide that treatment would harm the patient;
- Ensures the process is applied only to patients for whom life-sustaining treatment would be medically inappropriate and ineffective, and are difficult for the patient to endure;
- Respects the conscience of physicians and other health care providers so the law does not require them to provide unethical treatment;
- Extends the notification time to a family or surrogate from 48 hours to seven days in advance of an ethics committee meeting;
- Extends the time to find an alternative willing provider from 10 to 14 days;
- Provides the family or surrogate with a patient liaison to help guide them through the process;
- Provides the family or surrogate with a free copy of the patient’s medical record;
- Invites the family or surrogate to attend the ethics committee meeting at which future care for their loved one will be discussed; and,
- Creates reporting requirements for hospitals or hospital systems that have one or more ethics committee meetings on the process outlined in the bill.
Why is this important to the Catholic Church?
All human life is a gift by God, and is therefore innately sacred. In our lives, we strive to live a life that is worthy of our dignity, and that promotes the dignity of others. This respect for life is lifelong – from conception, which is the moment of fertilization, to natural death. A morally sound advance directive must explicitly exclude any form of euthanasia, as well as any abusive and irrational extension of the dying process. Read more.
*SB 303 / HB 1444 is supported by a coalition of organizations including Texas Catholic Conference, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association (all Catholic hospitals and health facilities), Texas Alliance for Life, and the Christian Life Commission - Texas Baptists. The Texas Catholic Conference is not supporting HB 1464 due to concerns that it would impose indefinite and medically inappropriate procedures on dying patients against the reasonable medical and ethical judgment of medical professions. Click here for additional information