Houston, Texas- In November, Methodist Hospital delivered a letter to the mother of David Christopher Dunn, “Chris,” confirming plans to remove and withdraw medical treatment at the end of ten days. Because Chris is intermittently conscious due to sedation, his mother is acting as his Medical Power of Attorney. However, Methodist has invoked the statutory process found in the Texas Advanced Directives Act (TADA-Chapter 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code), which allows the hospital to override medical directives of a patient and provide only ten days’ notice before withdrawing life-sustaining treatment. Dunn’s only recourse is to find another facility that will offer him an ICU bed – a daunting task on a rushed time frame for anyone, but even more so for patients without insurance such as Chris.
Chris is an American hero, who has served his community and the nation as an EMT, a police dispatcher, a Harris County Sheriff, and a Homeland Security employee. Chris even fought Somali pirates as part of a security team. Rather than protecting Chris’s Right to Life, the state of Texas is rewarding his lifetime of selfless service by relinquishing him to a hospital panel who have judged his quality of life too low to merit continued treatment.
Tragically, this is the way countless Texans have lived out their final days since 1999, when TADA unconstitutionally bestowed on healthcare facilities authority over Life and death. Doctors who decide their patients’ cases are “futile” – regardless of their motive or reasons for doing so – hold the power to remove patients from medical treatment or to issue a Do-Not-Resuscitate order on the patient, even if such action is against the expressed wishes of the patient or his surrogate. If the patient or his surrogate cannot find a transfer facility willing to take the patient within that ten-day period, there is no appellate process for the decision of the hospital panel. In other words, hospital panels have the right to decide which medically vulnerable Texans live and die.
Texas Right to Life has assisted Chris’s family in navigating this legal labyrinth to ensure that he continues to receive care. As a result of Texas Right to Life’s advocacy, Methodist Hospital agreed to extend the time for Chris, and the family was granted a two-week extension by a Harris County judge. Yesterday, a second two week extension was granted.
However, yesterday Methodist Hospital also filed an injunction seeking custodial guardianship of Chris. If granted, this injunction would legally prevent his mother, Evelyn, from fighting for the rights of her son. The family has released a video in which Chris clearly communicates that he wants to live and that he wants his lawyers to continue to fight for his life. Since Evelyn would not succumb to pressure from the hospital to impose death upon Chris, Methodist’s lawyers are now trying to remove Evelyn from Chris’s bedside and from his medical care. The hospital is attempting to neutralize her ability to protect the life of her 40-something year old son.
The Office of the Attorney General sent a strong message that the law could not be defended if challenged, stating that the OAG would not be involved in the case. Chris’s attorneys plan to file a constitutional challenge to the law. This cannot take place if Evelyn’s rights to speak for her son are stripped and the ill-intended hospital garners all control over the care, treatment, and life of Chris.