Elect Legislators to Reform Texas Advanced Directives Act

Texas Right to Life is extremely troubled by the smear tactics employed against our organization by Bob Deuell, an incumbent senator in the throes of a hotly contested, neck and neck primary run-off election. We used to enjoy a productive relationship with Bob Deuell, until 2007, when his commitment to the medical lobby proved to be stronger than his commitment to protect vulnerable patients.

Although Bob Deuell does oppose abortion, his efforts to give more power to hospital panels over the lives of patients expand euthanasia and disqualify him from Texas Right to Life’s support.  With ObamaCare on the horizon and health-care rationing on the rise, Texas must be the leader in shielding patients from futility policies and practices.  Regrettably, Bob Deuell ardently worked to pass measures that achieve the opposite goal, jeopardizing patients rather than protecting them, through his sponsorship of Senate Bill 303 in the 2013 83rd Texas Legislative Session.

Seventeen other state and national organizations opposed Deuell's SB 303 for a vast array of reasons.  Most notably, Bobby Schindler of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (a highly respected international group), American Life League (one of the largest Pro-Life organizations in the World), and the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons were among those opposed to SB 303.  At one point, the National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities supported the bill but withdrew their support after further analysis.

In an attempt to stifle First Amendment rights, Bob Deuell, via his attorneys, has lashed out against Texas Right to Life over our radio ads, which unapologetically recount the dangers of SB 303.  Deuell’s legal team sent a “Cease and Desist” letter to radio stations, promising to initiate litigation if the ads continued.  Texas Right to Life’s attorney responded, outlining the freedom of speech issues, and the ads resumed after a 36-hour suspension.

Because Texas Right to Life is telling voters about Bob Deuell’s alignment with the medical lobby and the pro-abortion Texas Medical Association, he is trying to intimidate us into pulling our ad campaign.  Deuell has engaged in these personal attacks against us in the past, but Texas Right to Life is undaunted, and our lawyers are prepared to defend our First Amendment rights to communicate with the people of Senate District 2 and Texas.

Dr. Joseph Graham, President, Texas Right to Life

After reviewing the allegations by the Deuell camp and the evidence and supporting documentation from Texas Right to Life, Cumulus Media and Salem Communications resumed airing the ads, much to Deuell’s consternation.  Additionally, Texas Right to Life quickly produced a second ad, which is airing concurrently, announcing that Deuell is trying to silence us through bullying and intimidation tactics.  A third, fourth, or fifth ad will be quickly produced and aired if needed.  Texas Right to Life will not be thwarted by the ire and abuse of power of an entrenched incumbent.

Opposition to SB 303 and to Deuell expands beyond Texas Right to Life.  Texas conservatives, including the Texas Eagle Forum, Texas Home School Coalition, Life Advocates, the Texas Leadership Coalition, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and many other organizations opposed SB 303.  The Tea Party leaders have now joined in supporting Bob Hall, the surging challenger to Deuell.

The witnesses who opposed SB 303 outnumbered those in favor by 4 to 1, and still Deuell tried to push this legislation through to passage—despite those with disabilities sharing their fears about how much worse SB 303 could make their plight if hospitalized.  While proponents argued the bill improved the current Texas Advance Directives Act by limiting the removal of treatment from people with non-terminal and irreversible conditions, such as a disability, the terms were so broad and subjective that all hospitalized patients – conscious or otherwise – could fall victim to the statutory process.

SB 303 gave more power to the hospital ethics committees and doctors over the lives of patients.  Texas Right to Life was attacked for using the term "death panel" in regard to medical lobby’s preferred euphemism, "ethics committee," but the committee indeed decides who receives what type of treatment and under what circumstances.  More important and frightening, the committee determines who does not receive treatment and, therefore, will die.  If that isn’t a “death panel," we don’t know what is.  Under the current law, if a doctor disagrees with the patient’s desire for medical treatment, the dispute will be “resolved” by this hospital-appointed ethics committee of its own people to resolve whether the patient’s directives are to be honored.  There is no outside oversight of this committee; the patient has no due process once the futility process has begun.

Deuell’s lawyers state that the bill would have ensured the “process [was] applied only to patients for whom life-sustaining treatment would be medically inappropriate and ineffective, and are difficult for the patient to endure.”  Yet all these terms are nebulous and undefined.  Who decides what is “inappropriate” and “ineffective” and on what basis?  The decisions are left to the hospital committee, the majority–if not all–of whose members are usually employed by the facility moving to withdraw treatment.  “Difficult for the patient to endure” is and should be left to the patient to decide how much discomfort and what degree of difficulty the patient will accept.

While the bill included an introduction about “Respecting the Conscience of physicians and other health Care providers so the law does not require them to provide unethical treatment [sic]”, the rights of the patients were not improved or considered in SB 303.

Additionally, while current law is silent on Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, SB 303 effectively tucked DNR’s under the expansive ethics committee blanket so that, if and when a patient or family is notified of a DNR and objects to the DNR, the futility review committee decides that, too.  Our full analysis of SB 303 can be found here.

Texas Right to Life favors real reforms to the current Texas Advance Directives Act, and we will not be bullied by entrenched incumbent Bob Deuell from relaying information to the public regarding a bill that would have exacerbated the troubling denial-of-treatment policies enshrined in current law, which is the most deadly in America.  Current law (and the proposed SB 303) offer no recourse for patients and their families outside of the treating facility’s own appointed death panel.  Inmates on death row enjoy more civil liberties and due process than hospitalized patients in Texas; death row inmates have the benefit of time throughout appeals.  Hospitalized patients whose lives are deemed futile have ONLY ten days and NO appeal relief.  Texas Right to Life will continue to help patients victimized by futile care theory while working to enact adequate patient protections, and that includes supporting the election of men and women who share our goals and mission on all the life issues, not only abortion.

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