* * * URGENT LEGISLATIVE ALERT 4/11/2021 * * *
Urge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and your state senator to oppose SB 917 because it will harm patients at the end of life.
Please immediately urge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and your Texas state senator to oppose SB 917, which is in the Senate. SB 917 would greatly harm patients at the end of life. We need to stop the bill before that happens.
SB 917 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) would set back the pro-life movement 22 years on end-of-life care.
SB 917 would force physicians and nurses to perform painful, medically inappropriate interventions indefinitely — essentially medical torture — on terminally ill patients merely at the demand of their surrogates.
SAMPLE MESSAGES — Use your own words.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (For more information about Lt. Gov. Patrick, click here)
Phone — 512.463.5342 (message line; you may leave a message after business hours)
Hello, my name is (name). I live at (address). My email address is (email). Please ask Lt. Gov. Patrick to oppose SB 917 because it will harm patients at the end of life. Thank you.
Email — click firstname.lastname@example.org
The Honorable Dan Patrick
Lt. Governor of Texas
Dear Governor Patrick:
Please oppose SB 917 because it will harm patients at the end of life. Thank you.
Your Name & Address
Phone — (you may call after business hours)
“Hello, my name is (name). I live at (address). Please ask Senator (insert name) to oppose SB 917 because it will harm patients at the end of life. Thank you.”
Sen. (Insert Your Senator’s Name)
Texas State Senate District (Your District Number)
Dear Sen.(Insert Name):
I urge you to oppose SB 917 because it will harm patients at the end of life.
Let us know that you have made your contacts.
Send an email with any comments to email@example.com.
• Texas Patients Advocates — Texas Alliance for Life is part of a large coalition of organizations that advocate for patients, including prominent pro-life organizations, who oppose SB 917. The coalition includes Texas Alliance for Life, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Coalitions of Texans with Disabilities, Texans for Life, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Medical Association, and Catholic Health Association of Texas, and Texas Alliance for Patient Access.
• SB 917 eliminates a successful dispute resolution process that has existed in state law for 22 years. That critical process is a key part of the Texas Advance Directives Act, passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law by pro-life Governor George W. Bush in 1999. It had the support of the pro-life community including the Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life.
• Here is the testimony of Texas Alliance for Life’s Executive Director Dr. Joe Pojman to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 7, 2021. He explained that most states have a dispute resolution process that can result in safe harbor from liability for the physician. Of those states, Texas has the most protections for patients. Texas has 12 due-process requirements. “We oppose Senate Bill 917 because it completely guts the dispute resolution process,” Pojman said. “It will result in doctors being forced to indefinitely inflict medical torture on dying patients, the antithesis of a pro-life position.”
• The dispute resolution process encourages doctors and families to discuss medically appropriate treatments for a loved one at the end of life. The expectation, and the practice under the law, are that doctors should follow the wishes of patients and their families regarding medical interventions when the patient is near the end of life. For example, the law requires providing food and water if requested by the family or deemed medically appropriate by the physician. Also, doctors cannot issue a DNR without obtaining the consent of the patient or family.
• However, on very rare occasions, demanded medically inappropriate interventions would harm the patient by causing great pain or suffering — essentially medical torture — without a proportional benefit to the patient. In such cases, the dispute resolution process requires the doctor to find an alternate provider and assist in transferring the patient. In one prominent case in Houston, a hospital contacted more than 60 alternate providers for a terminally ill patient in the ICU. If no alternate provider can be found and after going through 12 due process steps, the physician can switch from providing aggressive interventions that prolong the dying process to palliate (comfort) care to allow the patient to die of natural causes. SB 917 eliminates that process, thereby harming patients.
• Doctors and nurses are sometimes asked to do unspeakable things to patients by the surrogate. Beckett Gremmels, Ph.D., System Vice President of Theology and Ethics, CommonSpirit Health, gave the following compelling testimony to the Senate in 2019 on a similar bill:
In my experience as a clinical ethicist in over 1,000 ethics consults, they are made in response to patients who are harmed miserably and needlessly, whose death is prolonged due to unnecessary, inappropriate, and ineffective medical interventions which cause extreme pain and harm. We are not talking about life-prolonging medical interventions but death prolonging medical interventions. I have seen patients who took weeks, sometimes months, to die from illnesses that everyone agreed would unquestionably result in their death, only to have death prolonged and comfort care withheld due to requests from well-meaning, overburdened, grieving surrogate decision-makers. I have seen and smelled many patients rot while still alive.
Even worse, I have seen death prolonged by surrogates who were not well-meaning, who kept patients alive for their own benefit rather than thinking of the patient’s needs. Sometimes the benefit is financial, sometimes social, but mostly it is emotional. Respecting human dignity requires us to never treat human beings as objects or means to an end. Providing ineffective interventions for weeks without end that only serve to hurt patients for the benefit of a surrogate, or what is sometimes called “treating the family,” uses patients as objects and undermines their inherent dignity as beings made in God’s image.