Senator Deuell’s TADA Fix: Death Panels

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Through his landmark usurpation of healthcare, Barack Obama has empowered government-run death panels, officially known the (Un)Affordable Care Act. Yet few Texans are aware of the death panel law currently on the books in Texas.

In 1999, our state legislature passed a bill signed by then Governor Bush, called the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), which was the product of years of blood-letting and lopsided negotiations in which the medical lobby held all the power. The bill was designed to aid in resolving conflicts between providers and patients (and/or their surrogates) in regard to continuing life-sustaining medical treatment. Because it could be used on ANY patient, misapplications, abuses, and shortcomings of the law have come to light since its passage. While health care decisions for an ailing loved one are never easy, 11 states have passed laws that are effective, efficient, & respect life.

Some efforts to reform TADA have been made since 2005. The most recent attempt was Senate Bill 303 during the 83rd Regular Legislative Session in 2013. SB 303 was marketed as an improvement over current law, but in reality it transferred more power over the lives of patients to the hospital.

TADA allows hospitals to deprive disabled patients of their civil liberties. If a physician or hospital decides to withdraw treatment, they can do so with LEGAL immunity AGAINST the wishes of the patient and/or family after furnishing them with a written 10-day notice. These decisions are based on highly subjective quality of life judgments, couched in semantics such as “futility,” “keeping him alive,” “no hope of meaningful recovery,” “non-responsive,” etc.

For example, if a facility decides that they are providing what they consider to be “futile care,” (undefined in TADA), they must provide 48-hour notice of a meeting at which the continuation of care will be discussed. This meeting includes their ethics panel, which consists of facility employees, who, in any other forum, would clearly have a conflict of interest. At the meeting, the patient and/or family are furnished with paperwork describing the process of which they are about to fall prey. A written notice of the outcome of the meeting is given to the patient and/or family after they are excused from the secret deliberations about the fate of their ailing loved one.

If the decision is made to withdraw treatment & the family disagrees, there is no appealing to a higher authority at the facility, and no outside check or balance of the process. Their only recourse is to petition a judge to extend the transfer time, but not to overturn the facility’s decision. To win mercy from the judge, the surrogate or family must show a reasonable likelihood of the patient being accepted elsewhere by a willing provider. All while finding an attorney and learning how to file papers in court and securing medical records, and navigating the transfer red tape, and it must be done within 10 days. Yes, this is current law in Texas.

In the 2013 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, Senator Bob Deuell filed SB 303; he and the proponents of the bill sold it as an incremental step forward over current law. 303’s extension of the 10-day transfer period to 14 days served as a cunning distraction from the other troubling provisions that actually expanded authority of the ethics committee (death panel).

Senator Deuell represents Senate District 2, which includes eastern and far southern Dallas County, and Delta, Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, and Van Zandt counties.

He filed his bill on January 31, 2013. In his doing so, Senator Deuell, an outspoken opponent of abortion, affirmed his ties to the medical lobby while turning his back on hospitalized patients. The pro-abortion Texas Medical Association* backed 303 as did the Texas Hospital Association, along with all 11 abortion-for-any-reason-or-no-reason loving Senate Democrats, as did Senator Lucio (D-Brownsville) who opposes abortion.

However, even the ACLU, along with 17 major conservative organizations, opposed the bill.
SB 303 would have cemented the physician’s and the facility’s authority to issue an unwanted Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNAR) for a patient. After facing much opposition, Deuell acquiesced to requiring notice of DNAR. However, the notification of DNAR in 303 was hardly a mandate, for the facility would have only needed to make a “reasonably diligent” effort to contact or try to contact the surrogate before issuing the order.

Worse, if the patient/surrogate/family objected to the DNAR, the facility’s so-called “ethics committee” would be convened to discuss the matter. And after that, the process with the 14-days would proceed.

303 featured nuanced words and ambiguous phrases like “reasonably diligent,” “reasonable medical judgment,” “futile,” “insufficient time,” “imminent,” and “medically ineffective,” without clearly defining those terms. These terms are subjective and subject to interpretation. However, the bill was unequivocally clear that all treatment could be removed and withdrawn after 14 days—no ambiguity there.

303 listed superfluous protections for the patient that, at a glance, would seem to safeguard against imposed death sentences. However, denial of treatment would still be sanctioned whenever the needed treatment would “seriously exacerbate other major medical problems” or “result in severe irremediable . . . discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the treatment”—quality of life decisions imposed by the facility and physicians, not medical assessments. Patient & families should be able to decide with what discomfort and medical problems they wish to live.

The fundamental point is that the judgment whether “other major medical problems” or “severe discomfort” outweigh the value and dignity of preserving a person’s life is a value judgment, not a medical judgment. While appearing to limit the unbounded discretion of ethics panels to deny life-sustaining treatment against the will of the patient or surrogate, 303 included dangerous loopholes so broad as to authorize virtually any conceivable denial.

Senator Deuell’s answer to the TADA predicament was worse than the existing law and quicker than any Obamacare denial could be processed. Had the bill not died in the House, Deuell could have added the further entrenchment of Texas death panels to his long list of distinguished RINO accomplishments. He may be a defender of life in the womb, but not in the hospital room.

303 was filed at the behest of Big Med, for whom people in their care, who die too slowly, impact their bottom lines. The medicos have Deuell’s ear because they give him a lot of money. There are actual solutions to TADA (11 other states have enacted policies that foster doctor/patient/surrogate collaboration in these situations), but Big Med and Deuell appear to want to keep Texas progressive in our policies for the disabled and hospitalized.

Deuell insists that he is a conservative, but real conservatives respect and defend life at ALL stages. RINOs are not genuine conservatives, despite their protests which are designed to convince voters and constituents of their bonafides.

SD 2 voters have a choice. Bob Hall is running against Deuell in the Republican Primary. Hall will actively defend life, even the disabled, to an extent that Deuell is unwilling to go. Hall is not beholden to the pocketbooks of hospitals, and he recognizes that the ailing and disabled need help in living, not pressure to die.

This primary election will determine if Texas goes RINO or preserves our Pro-God, Pro-Life, Pro-Family, and Pro-Freedom values. One state senate seat can truly impact the whole state, so please vote, and VOTE FOR BOB HALL. The winner of the March 4th Primary will be our next State Senator since no Democrat is running in November.

Tomorrow (Friday, February 28th) is the last day to early vote. Election Day is March 4th. Every vote will count, especially yours!

Vote for Bob Hall. The life you save may be your own.

Jan Shedd
Kaufman County Tea Party
2.27.14

Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, joined the opposition to SB 303.  Read his analysis here.