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Texas Bill Would Clarify End Of Life Treatments

02/18/2013

Source: Brown University, Joan Teno

Brown University, Joan Teno

Current Texas law allows medical centers to stop treating terminally ill patients when such effort is deemed “futile.” Now, a Texas lawmaker is proposing a bill that would make it easier for family and patient surrogates to dispute decisions that terminate treatments for their loved ones.

The bill would revise the Texas Advanced Directives Act of 1999, which regulates how and when physicians allow patients to die. Currently, a medical center may discontinue treatments deemed “inappropriate” by the treating medical team only after ten days notice has been given to a patient’s family or decision-maker.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator Bob Deuell, would extend the time families who disagree with the medical center have to find a provider willing to continue treatments, from 10 days to two weeks.

It also adds language that clarifies “for whom life-sustaining treatment would be medically inappropriate and ineffective,” Dr. Arlo Weltge, who practices emergency medicine in Houston, told The Texas Tribune.

If a center’s decision goes before an ethics committee, current law provides 48 hours of notice before the meeting would be held. Deuell’s bill requires one week’s notice and would grant the family a patient liaison to guide them through the process, the Tribune reports.

If both the attending physician and the ethics committee conclude life-sustaining treatment is medically inappropriate, the patient may be moved to another facility willing to continue treatments. The patient would be liable for all costs incurred during transfer to the new center.

Supporters include the Texas Catholic Conference, the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association, the Texas Alliance for Life and the Christian Life Commission. “We are pleased with Sen. Robert Deuell’s bill as a starting point for this reform. Our organizations look forward to working with Senator Deuell and the Texas Legislature during the 83rd Legislative Session to improve TADA,” a joint statement read.

In 2009, a similar bill passed the Senate but was halted in the House. This bill’s fate is still unclear.

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