Pro-Life advocate speaks on behalf of vulnerable hospital patients

Before Chris Dunn’s passing prior to Christmas, well-known patient advocate Bobby Schindler, brother of the late Terri Schiavo, delivered a hard-hitting message about Chris’s hospital treatment (and lack thereof) at  Schindler is well-acquainted with the discriminatory judgments to which many vulnerable hospital patients fall victim every year; his brain-injured sister suffered death by starvation and dehydration.  The grueling process involved forcibly removing nutrition and hydration from Terri and waiting for the agony of the torturous death to wreak havoc on her body. 

The process of Terri’s death took over a week, and those who loved her most were powerless to do anything to help her because anti-Life laws stood between them and the humane treatment of Terri.  Since Terri’s death, Schindler has been a champion and a voice for the rights of victims like his sister; that’s why he lent his voice to the discussion about 46-year-old Chris Dunn’s inhumane treatment at the hands of Houston Methodist.

“Imagine lying in a hospital bed and being asked: ‘Do you want to live?’” wrote Schindler.  “Now imagine this: your answer doesn’t matter.”  Schindler was referring to Houston Methodist Hospital’s invocation of the draconian Texas Advance Directives Act, which grants hospitals the authority – often abused – to withdraw treatment from patients regardless of any written or verbally communicated directive from the patient or patient’s surrogate that continued treatment is desired.  In Chris’s case, we saw him plead on-camera for his life when asked by his mother and attorneys if he wanted to fight the hospital’s decision.  Schindler noted the irony of Houston Methodist invoking this statute as they simultaneously proclaim that they “strive to treat everyone as a person of sacred worth and value, created by God.”

Schindler illustrated how the hospital failed to act in accord with its own mission: “the hospital has taken an extra step against Chris’s mom, digging in their heels to ensure that they can kill this man,” said Schindler.  “Just recently, they filed to be his Permanent Guardian, which would remove Chris’s mom as his guardian and make it impossible for her to stop a hospital’s prescription of death for her son.”

Exacerbating the situation, Houston Methodist never diagnosed or treated Chris’s condition.  No more than a visual assessment was completed by Chris’s doctor, who admitted in a signed affidavit that the mass on Chris’s pancreas was only “suspected” to be malignant.  The hospital never biopsied the mass.  In fact, stomach fluid taps which served as the only testing done to determine whether Chris had cancer, according to Chris’s mother, repeatedly came back cancer-free. 

Persons unfamiliar with Chris’s case have engaged in speculation that Houston Methodist must have done everything in their power to ensure that Chris was given the best care possible in his condition.  Sadly, this is untrue.  And there’s nothing, under current law, which protects patients from this kind of treatment.  “Advanced Directives and Powers of Attorney might make you feel secure,” continued Schindler, “but we’re heading to a place nationally where they won’t be worth the paper they’re printed on, where these decisions are now often in the hands of complete strangers—ethics committees, hospital boards, and health care professionals.”  Indeed, we have already arrived at that place in Texas; here, an advance directive, will to live, or living will has no bearing whatsoever on a hospital’s decision to withdraw treatment.  The hospital has the final say regardless of what the patient has expressed.

“Death has become ubiquitous,” he said.  “From abortion and the killing of unborn children in the most inhuman ways (think dismemberment), to euthanasia and the killing of patients through dehumanizing and undignified means (think starvation and dehydration).”  Rhetoric arguing that what happened to Chris Dunn was justifiable is predicated on the belief that certain lives are unworthy of protection and dignity.  As Schindler emphasizes, this opinion is fundamentally at-odds with the Pro-Life position. 

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