Well, the run-off election is in the books. It was quite a night! The race I was most closely following was, of course, State Senate District 2. (Although that is not my district, this was a crucial race for all of Texas.) It's no secret that I favored Bob Hall over incumbent Bob Deuell.
It's also no secret as to why. While Deuell was helpful and, perhaps, even partially responsible* for some pro-life legislation during his tenure, his support for SB 303 was a dealbreaker for me. This was especially the case when we had an opponent committed to life from conception until natural death. I wrote about Bob Hall's pro-life work here after I personally talked to him.
I have written extensively about why SB 303 was so dangerous and how it was not an improvement - not even an "incremental" improvement - over the existing horribly flawed law. Some SB 303 supporters are continuing - even today - to claim that SB 303 provided access to courts when the families/patient reached an impasse about care with the hospital. This is absolutely not true. There was no recourse to a court except to try to get more time to move your patient to another facility. That was all. There was no way to challenge the underlying decision to deny care - which is the same as current law. There was total immunity from prosecution, including civil lawsuits - which is the same as current law. Again, my detailed analysis is here. I direct you specifically to par. 15, et seq, of my analysis which covers Sec. 166.046. You can see the full text of the bill and it's history here.
Also, there was no recourse to courts if you disagreed with the Do Not Attempt Resuscitation order put in your file. See par. 3, et seq, of my analysis. In fact, there was no requirement that you consent to the DNAR order PRIOR to its placement in your file. Once you were notified that it was there, you could "object" to it by going through the ethics panel/committee in the hospital. If your wishes were not honored there, too bad. You had no further recourse to court.
SB 303 provided more procedure before you got the same end result - denial of care against your wishes, without recourse to court or anyone else to challenge that decision to deny care, with limited time to find another facility, and total immunity for the doctor and hospital. It was form with no substance. It changed nothing that was critical. People can still be sentenced to death by this panel. And, that is a fact, Jack. An inconvenient truth, that despite attempts to silence it, still made it out there.
SB 303 would have given a little more time, 21 days, to find a new facility, which has been shown to be insufficient. We want treatment until transfer, that is, as long as it takes to find a facility. The supporters of SB 303 - without exception - oppose treatment until transfer. SB 303 would have provided free medical records to the family (we need a law to do that?), would have allowed a few more family members in the hearing (again, we need a law for that?), would have increased the notice a family has about the ethics panel hearing, and a liaison (employed by the hospital that had decided to terminate care) allegedly to guide the family. Maybe. The final version of the bill after the hearing in the House took many of these things away, including more time to find another facility.
I questioned whether this was bait and switch back last session on May 17, 2013. Note that certain disability groups supported this bill in part because of the 21 days. The Texas Catholic Conference chimed in and admitted that this was going backwards:
See also this Twitter exchange between the TCC and myself also from May 17, 2013:
(The TCC never responded to my questions there about withdrawing support once the time extensions were removed. Indeed, the TCC has continued to voice support for SB 303 and Deuell's re-election.)
Supporters also point to the "non-discrimination" provision in the bill. So what? How would you prove or enforce that? Because there is, again, no recourse to courts. It was another meaningless, unsubstantive provision that allowed supporters to claim reform when the bottom line is a panel could still sentence you to death as already shown above.
This was simply not a pro-life bill. It was not pro-patient. It was not even incrementally better. It does not matter who supported it which I addressed in my post about the error of clericalism and the bandwagon fallacy. The Texas Advanced Directives Act (TADA) is in desperate need of reform. But it must be true reform, and for me to support it, it must be in keeping with our authentic Catholic teaching about life.
It is gratifying to me that SB 303 became a major issue in this campaign despite the fact that it is complicated. It most certainly is complicated, but the stakes are very high. Everyone will either get sick or care for someone who becomes critically ill and is in a hospital. This is no small thing. Contrary to what some believe, end-of-life issues - denial of care or refusal to treat issues - are NOT distractions from pro-life issues. They are pro-life issues just as important as abortion, contraception, and the death penalty. Euthanasia is already occurring; it has its own movement. We cannot sit idly by and hope for the best.
A comment in response to those who do not like this issue being part of the pro-life movement: Not everyone is called to work on the same part of the movement. Some feel more called to be sidewalk counselors, some protest, some help in crisis pregnancy centers, some donate money, some speak on the issues, some work at home raising their children and praying for the movement, some work to help patients and their families navigate the process in place in Texas right now to ensure that their ill patient is not denied the care rightfully due him or her, and some work for better legislation for better laws protecting all life. No one can do it all. No one should. But it all matters.
No one should be dismissing these end-of-life/denial of treatment issues as unimportant or a distraction from the "real" pro-life movement. It is neither unimportant nor a distraction. It is part of the pro-life movement. We are all potentially affected by TADA and SB 303 had it passed. And, as a society, we cannot let it remain law that a doctor or hospital can withdraw even ordinary care (including artificial nutrition and hydration) from a patient without their consent, without recourse, and then limit the time a patient and family has to find another facility. We just cannot.
So let me say again how gratifying it is to me that people are understanding what the law is, what this bill wanted to do, and pushed back.
One final note: A politician's record is fair game in an election. SB 303 is part of Deuell's record, just as much as anything else he has done or supported, or hasn't done or hasn't supported. I am grateful for the pro-life work he did. But he wrote SB 303, he worked very hard to pass it, as did the organizations and individuals that supported him. And, it was not a pro-life bill. Should any other elected politician do likewise, it will be noted here. In this election we had an alternative who has promised to protect all life and has an understanding of the complicated issues involved in SB 303. He was the better choice.
So let me be clear:
Principles above all else. This is not about any particular person, elected or otherwise, or group. It is about the issue - the issue of protecting all life from conception until natural death (not death by starvation or dehydration).
I look forward to the next session and seeing what can be done toward true reform of TADA.
Thanks for reading!
*Deuell was not not solely responsible, of course, for any legislation and any claim to the contrary is patently unfair to the other good, pro-life legislators who worked to pass these bills also. It takes many people to get a bill passed.