Texas, a State Where Patients’ Wishes Don’t Matter

Texas, a State Where Patients’ Wishes Don’t Matter by Texas Right to Life

Two days before Christmas, forty-six-year-old Chris Dunn died at Houston Methodist Hospital. Chris was a loving son, brother, and friend. He served his local and national communities as an EMT, police dispatcher, and employee at the Department of Homeland Security. If his name sounds familiar, it is because his family actively brought media attention to Chris’ case when Methodist Hospital decided his life was not worth living and wanted to “pull the plug”–that is, remove him from the ventilator he needed to breathe. Chris, his family and friends vehemently disagreed.

An unjust law and a medical system cruelly stacked against seriously ill patients caused Chris Dunn and his family weeks of anxiety and anguish. They fought back, and, in the process, many people were made aware that the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) permits medical tyranny. [Note: No other state has as merciless a statute as the Texas Advance Directives Act. Only Virginia has a similar law, which, unlike in Texas, remains rarely, if ever, invoked.]

Also known as “the death panel law,” TADA (Section 166.046) authorizes a hospital-appointed ethics committee to decide that it is futile to provide a patient with life-sustaining treatment based on the committee’s assessment of the patient’s quality of life,disregarding the patient’s and/or family’s values and treatment wishes. Once this “death panel” gives the family written notice of its decision, the family has a mere 10 days to find a facility able and willing to care for the patient and move him there. Failing that, under TADA, “the physician and health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment.”

Texas attorney Kassi Marks, who has carefully analyzed TADA, notes:

“… among the biggest concerns about this law overall is the lack of due process for the patient and his or her family when TADA is invoked and that TADA imposes a death sentence on a patient against their will and by means that are inhumane or in opposition to their faith. Do not lose sight of that. A patient has no right to have the underlying decision of the doctor or panel reviewed under the law. Once the medical professionals determine that care will be terminated for any reason, there is nothing more to do but to try to find another facility – and fast. Sometimes a judge will grant some additional time. But that is the only recourse to court a victim of TADA has, begging for more time. The underlying decision cannot be challenged. Also, there is total immunity for a facility and doctor as long as they operate under TADA.” [kassiblog.blogspot.com, 12/30/2015]

The facts in Chris Dunn’s case

Chris’s family wisely sought help from Texas Right to Life (TRTL) when they were notified of the hospital committee’s decision to deny him treatment. Having assisted more than 250 patients who have been victimized by TADA since the law’s passage, TRTL’s staff has more experience with these cases than any other entity in the state. In fact, the Pro-life Healthcare Alliance’s patient advocate in Texas calls TRTL every time she receives a plea for help from a family whose loved one is “under the gun” of a 10-day countdown.

The following facts are gathered from reports by those with first-hand knowledge of Chris Dunn’s case, namely Texas Right to Life staff members who were directly involved in helping the Dunn family, and the TRTL website.

  • · On December 2, a video made in Chris’s hospital room records a visit from two attorneys brought in by his mother. One of them, Joe Nixon, asks Chris, “Do you want us to help you? Do you want to stay alive?” Chris folded his hands as if in prayer or pleading for his life while nodding his head, “Yes.” He could not speak because of the ventilator tube in his throat, but he was conscious, alert and answered questions.
  • · The first week of December, the hospital petitioned a court to allow them to usurp the authority of Chris’s mother as his Medical Power of Attorney and instead name an unknown staff member at Houston Methodist as Chris’s custodial guardian–all in an effort to ensure his demise.
  • · On December 10, TRTL reported, “We have been working to secure care at a different facility, but the law inhibits this process by imposing impossible deadlines and the hospital has abandoned efforts to treat Chris, further delaying the transfer. … Essentially, the law not only allows Chris to be killed against his will, but also hinders our ability to help him live.”
  • · Also on December 10, TRTL reported, “Many have asked what Chris’s medical diagnosis is. In short: no one–including his doctors–knows. This is not because Chris is suffering from an inexplicable illness, but simply because his physicians refuse to investigate his symptoms to find a cause. Chris was admitted with a mass on his pancreas which, to date, the hospital has not biopsied. … Chris’s condition may be treatable, but the hospital has discriminated against Chris by ruling treatment futile based on an arbitrary “quality of life” judgment, and they have done this without even investing due diligence in diagnosing him.”
  • · Texas Right to Life Senior Legislative Associate Emily Horne said at a press conference on December 22 that, during a recent visit to see Chris and his family in the hospital, Chris opened his eyes and waved to her when she greeted him, despite the fact that his hands were tied to the bed. She asked how the hospital could see fit to end Chris’s life against his will if he were clearly alert enough to need to have his hands tied.
  • · One month after Houston Methodist Hospital determined that Chris’s life was not worth living and that his condition was not even worth diagnosing or treating, Chris succumbed to his illness.
  • · The legal efforts of Chris’s family and his lawyers to stall the state-sanctioned, involuntary euthanasia proved effective. Not only was Chris’s death not imposed by the hospital, but he and his family also raised unprecedented awareness of the unconstitutional and unjust nature of the Texas Advance Directives Act.

For more complete information on this case and/or on the Texas Advance Directives Act, these sites have numerous accurate articles and commentaries:




Texas Right to Life is willing to help if you or a loved one is experiencing treatment discrimination or denial-of-treatment from a hospital or physician, stating, “We can connect the family with a patient advocate who will stand by your side as you navigate the hospital system. Together, we can bring awareness to the injustice inflicted on so many Texans–past, present, and future–by the Texas Advance Directives Act. And together, we can overturn the Texas Advance Directives Act.” http://www.texasrighttolife.com/a/1944/Chris-Dunns-was-not-a-singular-case-of-injustice-in-Texas#.Vph0fo-cGUk