22. March 2005 · Comments Off on The Texas Futile Care Act · Categories: General Nonsense, Politics

There seems to be a rumor running around, in connection with the Terri Schiavo affair, about something called the Texas Futile Care Act of 1999 (signed into law by then Governor George W. Bush). The rumor has it that this law allows a doctor, or care facility, to override the wishes of the guardian or family in cases such as Terri’s.

Well, here’s the actual law. And my reading of it only shows a provision for what we would all understand to be a Living Will. If someone else (Sgt. Mom, or another Texan, perhaps?) sees something there which I don’t, please comment.

Update: Mark Kleiman has a lot on this here.

Update 2: On closer inspection, it does appear that the statute allows for the attending physician to go against the wishes of the patient or guardian, WITH THE CONCURRENCE OF A MEDICAL ETHICS COMMITTEE. It is also important to note that this is not directly equivalent to Terri’s case, as it deals with patients determined to be terminal; this is not the case with Terri.

Update 2: Here’s a good article on the subject, from 1998:

Though no one knows how many hospitals have medical futility guidelines, the trend seems to have started around 1990, according to the Rev. John Paris, a professor of bioethics at Boston College. Until that time, the treatment model was fairly paternalistic. Physicians dictated treatment with little input from patients. Families sued to terminate medical care that physicians and hospitals wanted to impose against their wishes or those of the patient. Paris thinks patients right to terminate unwanted care was fairly well-established with the 1990 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Nancy Cruzan. The verdict gave her parents the right to disconnect the feeding tube sustaining their daughter, who had been in a persistent vegetative state for years. In 1991, the federal Patient Self-Determination Act was passed, which established advance directives. “Then suddenly, we find a new phenomenon: families demanding treatment and aggressive interventions that physicians believed were inappropriate,” Paris said.

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