Disability Advocates Say Texas 'Futile Care' Law Should Be Euthanized

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Disability advocates say that the Texas 'futile care' statute is a violation of patients' rights and autonomy. They suggest the law should be 'euthanized' and replaced by legislation that protects the rights and lives of patients in the health care system.

The publicity surrounding the struggle to save the life of Andrea Clark - sentenced to die under Texas' "Futile Care" Statute - has brought attention once again to little know hospital policies regarding so-called "futility." There is also a second case in Texas right now that hasn't gotten as much attention involving a Vietnamese woman named Yenlang Vo, in Austin, TX. Ms. Clark is in a hospital in Houston, TX.

This isn't the first time the Texas law on "futile care" has received national attention. During the struggle for Terri Schiavo's life, Sun Hudson, a 6-month-old boy with a serious condition was removed from a feeding tube over his mother's objections under the Texas law. It received brief attention from Democrats pointing out that Sun Hudson was dying against his mother's wishes under a law signed by ex-governor George Bush. But the critics (U.S. Rep. John Conyers for one) seemed more motivated to score political points than in having serious moral qualms about the Texas "futile care" law.

The law is back in the public eye and is under criticism from grassroots activists as diverse as the Democratic Underground and ProLife Blogs. Essentially, futile care policies provide that a physician may overrule a patient or their authorized decision-maker in denying wanted life-sustaining treatment. Futile care policies do not generally require that the treatment be objectively futile, but allow doctors to use subjective criteria such as quality of life judgments and even economic factors as grounds for denying treatment.

It's also a concern to disability advocates who, until recently, were excluded from the relatively small group of players that has played a major role in pushing for the "futility" statute and other changes in Texas health care policies. "We think that all health care consumers should be questioning whether it's advisable, or even constitutional, for doctors to have this kind of power," said Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet.

Coincidentally, Bob Kafka, Texas NDY Organizer, withdrew from the Advance Directives Coalition just days before the news hit the web about Andrea Clark. He withdrew over efforts to "improve" the "futility" statute.

"I have come to the conclusion that the essence of any futility law embraces involuntary euthanasia," says Kafka. "The ability of a doctor to overrule both the patient and their surrogate in withdrawing life-sustaining treatment is in violation of the principle of patient autonomy. There's no way to 'fix' this law. It just needs to be killed - or euthanized, for those who prefer softer language. I am increasingly suspicious of the willingness of the medical community to honor "autonomy" of old, ill and disabled people ONLY in those cases where they want to die."

Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, agrees.

"These policies are obviously directed with the aim to protect hospitals, doctors and other medical staff. There is absolutely no concern for the rights of patients reflected in these policies. And these policies are spreading, thanks to cooperation from both Democrats and Republicans."

Not Dead Yet calls for a halt to the backroom lobbying by special interest groups that have resulted in bills like this one. The Texas futility bill should be killed – followed by open and public hearings. In the end, that’s the only way to craft legislation that will protect the rights and lives of people in the health care system.

For more information, contact:

Diane Coleman, Stephen Drake

708-209-1500, exts. 11 & 29

Bob Kafka



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Stephen Drake