* * * URGENT LEGISLATIVE ALERT 5/15/2021 * * *
Urge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and your state senator to oppose SB 917.
SB 917 allows medical torture of terminally ill patients.
The Texas Legislature is meeting in Austin. Please immediately urge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and your Texas state senator to oppose SB 917. That bill could be on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday if the Senate does not receive enough calls and emails to stop it.
SB 917 would force physicians and nurses to perform painful, medically inappropriate interventions beyond the standard of care — essentially medical torture — on terminally ill patients without any proportional benefit. This can happen merely at the demand of a surrogate. We need to stop the bill before that happens.
See the sample messages below.
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 email@example.com
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
Your State Senator (Find Your State Senator Here)
PHONE — (You may leave a message after business hours.)
Hello, my name is (name). I live at (address). Please ask Senator Birdwell to oppose SB 917. It will harm patients at the end of life. Thank you.
The Honorable ____________
Texas State Senate District __
Dear Senator ___________:
I urge you to oppose SB 917. It will harm patients at the end of life.
Your name & address
Let us know that you have made your contacts.
Send an email with any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- There is grave danger that SB 917 will be on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday. We must assure that the bill does not have enough votes to pass. You calls are critically important.
- SB 917 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) is the companion to HB 2609 by Rep. Tan Parker (R-Denton). HB 2609 has not passed the House.
- The Senate Health and Human Services Committee narrowly voted SB 917 out on a 5-4 vote, which Texas Alliance for Life opposed:
- Voting to support SB 917: Blanco, Buckingham, Hall, Kolkhorst, Perry
- Voting to oppose SB 917: Campbell, Miles, Powell, Seliger
- 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 HB 2609 and 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, 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 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. HB 2609 and SB 917 eliminate 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 a surrogate 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.