looking at the laws
Is the Texas Medical Futility Act a real-life "death panel"?
A patient identified only as "Willie" was denied nourishment and died in a Houston hospital last month, according to Texas Right to Life. Willie went to seek help a few weeks ago after experiencing chest pains; doctors found pneumonia and leukemia. Apparently, he slipped into a coma following surgery, and the doctor and hospital ethics board determined further care would be futile, giving the family 10 days to find another facility to treat him.
Though he had plenty of insurance, no other facility would accept him. After the legally required 10 days, the hospital ended nourishment.
He was "dehydrated and starved to death completely against the family's desire,” said Texas Right to Life’s Elizabeth Graham.
The Texas Medical Futility Act allows doctors, in the absence of a living will to decide whether your treatment is “futile” and, with the approval of the hospital medical ethics board, stop your treatment.
It must be Obamacare’s death panels at work! Remember all the hoopla over doctors getting paid to counsel patients about end-of-life planning? Ms. Mama Grizzly, aka Sarah Palin, led the charge that Obama wanted to pull the plug on Granny to save healthcare costs — as she so nicely put it, “Death Panels.”
Well, it may have been a death panel, but it wasn’t created by Obamacare — try Texas Republicans. Willie was the victim of a little known act that former Governor George Bush signed into law in 1999 — when Rick Perry was Lt. Governor — called the Medical Futility Law. Yes, that’s right: Republicans against life, and it’s still on the books.
Our esteemed governor, who says "I always stand by the side of life," has never rescinded the law.
The Texas Medical Futility Act allows doctors, in the absence of a living will (or advanced directive, as it is sometimes called) to decide whether your treatment is “futile” and, with the approval of the hospital medical ethics board, stop your treatment. What’s troubling is that “futile” is not defined in the law — it is left to the doctors to determine.
For example, it may be clear that treating a person in a permanent vegetative state is futile. But, how about the old guy in renal failure with metastatic prostate cancer? Doctors may decide it would be futile to dialyze him despite the fact that dialysis would keep him alive because the he prostate cancer is going to kill him pretty soon. The definition of “futile” is left totally up to the doctor.
If the hospital’s death panel — I mean ethics committee — agrees with the doctor, the family has 10 days to find another facility that agrees to treat their loved one before care is terminated.
What’s troubling is that “futile” is not defined in the law — it is left to the doctors to determine.
This law was designed to encourage people to have a living will. And, incredibility, it was those politicians who labeled Obamacare as the creator of death panels that created the Texas Futile Care Act, which was passed by a Republican majority in the Texas legislature and signed by a Republican Governor; this is not a liberal, leftist, elitist “death panel.”
So, what is a living will? It is a legal document that guides medical decisions should you be unable to communicate with your doctors. You, the patient, indicate which treatments you do or do not want applied to you in the event you either suffer from a terminal illness or are in a permanent vegetative state. Most hospitals ask you whether you have one when you’re admitted.
An Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 64 percent of boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — say they don’t have a living will. And you know why they haven’t prepared one? It’s because they feel healthy and young in their middle-years and don’t want to dwell on death. A living will guides medical decisions should a patient be unable to communicate with doctors.
It’s a document you should prepare while you’re young and healthy — not sick and dying. Young people wind up in the hospital, too. A living will is easy to prepare-you can do it online (and you can change it any time you want). Before preparing the document, discuss your decision with your family and assign a family member or friend as your surrogate to be sure that your medical wishes are fulfilled on your behalf. This is the so-called "medical power-of-attorney" that can also be prepared online.
To all of you who equate living wills with death panels — the bigger issue is not whether or not to treat. The bigger issue is that your wishes are obeyed. Otherwise, in its place, someone else will be making this decision for you.
You don’t want your family to go through what Willie’s family went through, so while you’re still able, meet with your family to discuss how you would like to live out your life as you grow older.