We support Senate Bill 1944 because it further improves a sound law — the dispute resolution process of the Texas Advance Directives Act.
We oppose Senate Bill 917 because it completely guts the dispute resolution process. It will result in doctors being forced to indefinitely inflict medical torture on dying patients, the antithesis of a pro-life position.
History of Our Law
In 1999, the Texas legislature unanimously passed and then-Gov. George W. Bush signed into law the Texas Advanced Directives Act, 22 years ago. It was the culmination of 14 months of drafting by a workgroup including National Right to Life, Texas Right to Life, Texas Alliance for Life including myself, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, and numerous organizations representing medical providers, all of whom supported it.
All of us continue to support it, except for Texas Right to Life.
The Act replaced an outdated statute, first passed in the 1970s. That law allowed a physician to remove life-sustaining interventions from patients and granted safe harbor with almost no due process, merely a “reasonable” attempt at a transfer to another provider, no minimum timeframe, and no review by a third party.
Replacing that statute was the sole motivation for our workgroup. Claims that the Act was motivated by pro-euthanasia or pro-assisted suicide intentions are completely false.
Texas Dispute Resolution Process Compared to Other States
The Texas Dispute Resolution Process compares very well with other states’ laws. The majority — twenty-six — allow safe harbor for physicians to withdraw life-sustaining interventions under limited circumstances.
Of those, Texas provides the most protections for patients. The closest is Virginia’s law, which has a 14-day time to transfer and an ethics panel review. Passage of that law four years ago was supported by National Right to Life’s state affiliate, the Virginia Society for Human Life.
Due Process Protections in Texas Law
In rare cases when a dispute cannot be resolved, and a transfer cannot be found, the law provides safe harbor from liability for the physician who switches from life-sustaining interventions to compassionate palliative care.
However, the safe harbor is available only after meeting 12 due-process requirements, including a review by the hospital ethics committee. That committee can grant or veto safe harbor for the physician attempting a transfer.
Our law does not allow hospital administrators or ethics committees to make medical decisions about which interventions a patient receives. Only the attending physician may do that.
Please do not gut our law. We urge you to keep our law intact and improve it by adopting Senator Lucio’s Senate Bill 1944.
This testimony was given by Texas Alliance for Life’s Executive Director, Joe Pojman, Ph.D., to the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.