Press conference increases public awareness of Chris Dunn’s plight at Houston Methodist Hospital

Houston, TX – December 22, 2015: Today, Texas Right to Life hosted a press conference at 1330 Post Oak Blvd. in Houston to expose the draconian law Houston Methodist Hospital has invoked against the life of American hero Chris Dunn.  The Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA-Chapter 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code) became law in 1999.  Since the law’s passage, Texas Right to Life has assisted more than 250 patients who have been victimized by invocation of the law against their will.  Dunn’s story has gained national media attention and support from people across the country.

Texas Right to Life General Counsel Emily Cook commenced the press conference and stated that the central question in Chris’s case is who has the right to make Life and death decisions: the patient and family, or the hospital?  Dave Welch of the U.S. Pastors Council galvanized supporters to fight for the sanctity of all Life, underscoring the importance of lives like Chris’s and highlighting that Houston Methodist claims to be a Christian institution. 

Next, Chris Dunn’s attorney, Joe Nixon, explored the legal problem with TADA and the unconstitutional nature of the statute.  Over the weekend, Nixon appeared on Fox News to combat ‘quality-of-life’ rhetoric, which opponents use to justify killing patients like Chris.  “We believe that every person has a right to live from beginning to natural end,” said Nixon.  He emphasized the lack of recourse found in the law, which effectively grants institutions unlimited power and divests patients of their rights.  “This statute does not allow an opportunity for appeal of the decision to a court of law, does not allow for a patient to have an advocate attend the committee hearing on their behalf to advocate for life, and does not allow the patient to present evidence to the committee for review.”

Nixon stated that all Texas hospitals, under the law, can usurp the patient’s autonomy and Right to Life in this manner by invoking TADA.  “In the end,” he said, “criminals on death row have more rights than Texas hospital patients seeking to defend their lives.” 

Jeremy Newman of the Texas Home School Coalition iterated Nixon’s points by emphasizing the importance of protecting the rights of the patient’s surrogate and family.  In cases like Chris’s, a family member often speaks on behalf of the patient’s wishes.  Current Texas law fails to acknowledge the rights of patients or their legal surrogates.  Newman noted that TADA renders families powerless to protect or advocate for the lives of their loved ones, leaving life-altering decisions in the hands of hospitals.

Texas Right to Life Senior Legislative Associate Emily Horne, who has had extensive personal interaction with Chris and his family, shared her experience helping people like Chris navigate the difficult legal process of denial of treatment.  Horne noted that “Chris’s case is not unique,” and that Texas Right to Life is currently helping four other families who are in the same situation as Chris, facing a denial-of-treatment situation against their wishes in Texas hospitals.  Horne shared that, during a recent visit to see Chris and his family in the hospital, Chris opened his eyes and waved to her when she greeted him, despite the fact that his hands were tied to the bed.  She asked how the hospital could see fit to end Chris’s life against his will if he were clearly alert enough to need to have his hands tied.

Chris’s sister, Holly Gomez, shared her experience of fighting for her brother’s life.  She shared details of what daily life in the hospital with Chris is like and expressed intense gratitude for the support, encouragement, and prayers her family has received.  Supporters of Texas Right to Life and people across the country have reached out via social media, offered prayers, and sent Christmas cards.  Gomez stated that Chris is an ordinary person, an older brother who helped raise her.  She asked, “What if this was your brother, or your son, or your friend?”

Closing remarks were delivered by Texas Right to Life President Jim Graham, who thanked Gomez and her mother, Evelyn Kelly, for their courage in sharing Chris’s story and working to end the Texas law that allows a hospital to take Chris’s life.  Graham recalled the hundreds of patients like Chris for whom Texas Right to Life has advocated.  Graham noted that TADA is the worst law affecting hospital patients in the entire nation.  He shared that powerful groups are working in concert to model federal legislation on the Texas model – a horrifying prospect for vulnerable patients and their families. 

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