By: Todd Ackerman
In a victory for Texas’ medical community, a Harris County state district judge Friday rejected a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that allows doctors to withdraw life-sustaining treatment against the wishes of the patient or guardian.
Judge Bill Burke said it would be “a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water” to repeal the controversial 1999 law, enacted in response to doctors’ push to eliminate care they believe prolongs suffering in terminal patients. The law, which is unique to Texas, has drawn criticism from some families who say it gives doctors too much power.
“It would be a big mistake to throw out a statute in place for nearly 20 years that seems to be working pretty well,” Burke said in rejecting the request for summary judgment declaring the law unconstitutional. “If you think the law doesn’t provide sufficient protection for patients, go to the Legislature to remedy it.”
The ruling was applauded by the Texas Medical Association, which was part of a broad coalition of groups who together filed a motion in support of the law. The groups included Texas Alliance For Life, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities and the Texas Alliance for Patient Access.