Ending Futile Care Dehydrations in Texas

by Wesley J. Smith

It has been a frustrating experience to witness the difficulties in repealing Texas’s oppressive futile care law that permits bioethics committees to order patients off wanted life-sustaining treatment based on “quality of life” (read money).

Opponents have been divided about approach to this issue.  Sometimes, it even seemed that supposed allies intended to make things worse. That was why I testified against a Texas bil two years ago that would have allowed unilateral DNRs imposed on patients in exchange for preventing futile care to include feeding tubes. 

This year, a more limited bill–HB 3074–bill was filed to prevent forced dehydration. It wasn’t as bad as the previous version, but it would have explicitly validated the current system, a wrong approach in my book. For that reason, I didn’t support it, nor did Texas Right to Life, a huge mover and shaker on these issues.

TRTL has now released a press release that it can support HB 3074. From its announcement:

HB 3074 will limit the withdrawal of food and water, called “artificially administered food and water” or “AANH” in the bill, from hospitalized patients. The originally filed version of the bill included some broadly drafted exceptions that would have enshrined quality of life value ethics into law, but the subjectivity of those loopholes has been removed.

As revised, HB 3074 marks a first positive step in what remains a long journey of reforming the Texas Advance Directives Act. If passed it will mostly prevent situations, allowed under current law, in which families or patient through an advance directive wanted tube supplied food and water maintained, but doctors and a bioethics panel order death by dehydration anyway.

Good. No validation of current law, some improvement of patient right under the existing schemes and a good restriction on the odious statute’s current scope.

I hope 3074 passes–not as the final word on this issue, but the first step in the right direction of repealing the entire Texas futile care scheme.