Patient’s Right to Food and Water – HB 3074
by Rep. Drew Springer
Goal: Texas Alliance for Life supports amending Chapter 166, Health and Safety Code, to require physicians to provide their patients with food and water if the patient or her/his surrogate request it.
The Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), Chapter 166, Health and Safety Code, governs the situations when a patient at the end of her/his life has a disagreement with her/his physician about what treatment or life-sustaining treatment is appropriate. In the case of a disagreement, TADA sets up a dispute resolution process using ethics review committees.
The ethics review committee reviews the doctor’s decision to withhold life-sustaining treatment. The ethics committee does not have any power to make medical decisions. Rather, if the committee agrees with the doctor that the desired treatment is inappropriate or unethical, the doctor will not have civil or criminal liability for ceasing to provide life-sustaining treatment at the end of a ten-day period, during which time the patient can be transferred to an alternate provider.
Under current law, artificially administered nutrition and hydration (AANH) is treated as any other life-sustaining treatment, such as a ventilator or dialysis. That is to say, if a doctor believes food and water are no longer providing benefit to the patient, he or she can withdraw the provision of AANH.
Texas Alliance for Life believes that AANH should be provided to all patients if they or their surrogates request it, with very rare exceptions. Food and water is a human right, and should not be considered extraordinary life-sustaining treatment.
While food and water should be the base level of care any patient receives, doctors do need the ability, in very rare cases, to withhold AANH. If the AANH is actually hastening the patient’s death, for example, in the case of renal failure, a doctor needs to have the ability, even against the wishes of a surrogate, to withhold the food and water.
House Bill 3074 would ensure patients are not starved or dehydrated by requiring AANH be provided to the patient so long as it is not causing more harm. Under HB 3074, even if the ethics review committee finds that extraordinary life-sustaining treatment is no longer appropriate, the doctor would still have to provide AANH or face civil or criminal liability for wrongful death or injury of the patient.