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May 3, 2006

The Law Failed but the Public Outcry Prevailed

Topics: Euthanasia, Legislative Action Items

Two patients in different Texas hospitals are alive today because of the protest raised by the public following their doctor's decision to discontinue medical treatment, this according to their attorney.  Andrea Clark's fragile health is improving and she has been transferred to a new doctorYenlang Vo, a patient in St. David's North Austin Medical Center, has been given an additional 30 days to locate another facility for treatment.   Both had been designated for death via the removal of life sustaining treatment under the Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999, a law that permits an unelected, self-appointed, anonymous ethics committee to forcibly remove care.

Jerri Lynn Ward, an attorney truly dedicated to her client's best interest writes,

Things have worked out for Andrea Clark, and appear to be working out for Yolang. However, I have seen a number of commentors on various blogs who have expressed the belief that these outcomes mean that the Texas Statute works.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Were it not for the huge stink raised by the public, these ladies would not be alive today. Finding a new attending physician and/or especially a new facility to accept a patient whom a hospital has deemed a "futile case" is like finding a needle in a haystack. In the case of Andrea, without all the press, the new attending physician would never have been located or even known that this was happening.

The reality is that once a hospital labels a patient as a futile case, other hospitals will rarely, if at all, take the patient. Specialty hospitals (long-term acute care hospitals) will not take them because the patient has no discharge plan (plan for going to a lower level of care) A person that a hospital has written off as futile is not going to have a discharge plan. A nursing home, more likely than not, will have insufficient resources (dialysis and respirator care for instance) to care for such patients.
Jerri also provides a summary of the Texas law that enables doctors to forcibly end treatment to individuals whose care is considered "futile". 
What the futilists are saying is that the person's "quality of life" is not worth sustaining and that it is not worth providing treatments that will prolong such a life.

When should doctors should be allowed to withdraw from a case? Well, the standard in the Texas licensing regulations is with "reasonable notice"to the patient.

(...) Before I took on these two cases, I could see the procedural flaws in
this law. Now that I have experienced handling these cases, I have
become acutely aware of the human cost to patients and families.
Andrea and Yenlang's situation is not unique, there are others, many who were not as fortunate and whose relatives joined Andrea's family to protest in front of her hospital last Saturday.  The bottom line is that the law simply does not work - it needs to be radically change.  Liberals and conservatives are united in recognizing this ... what is stopping Texas law makers?

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Posted by tim at May 3, 2006 1:17 AM

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