Friday, December 23, 2016

One Year Ago Today....Remembering Chris Dunn

Credit: Texas Right to Life

One year ago today, Chris Dunn died. I wrote then about how Chris did not get to see Christmas, having died without a diagnosis of his underlying condition, whatever it was, which meant it was not treated. Rather, the Hospital decided prior to Thanksgiving that year, that he was not worth treating or saving and sought to withdraw his life-sustaining care against his and his mother's wishes. Who can forget the video in that link where he prayed for his life? Chris and his mother bravely fought back. She continues the fight today for your sake and for mine. Ultimately, Chris was allowed to die without having his life-sustaining treatment withdrawn, but without a proper diagnosis and without any treatment for whatever his underlying condition was. This still deeply troubles me. It should trouble you as well. 

I have been anticipating this unfortunate anniversary for a few weeks now. Life and death issues are never far from the forefront of my mind. I've been thinking about my friends in the pro-life community who were on the front-lines this time a year ago and who have continued to fight on his behalf and others like him. I know this anniversary will forever be part of what all of us remember as we prepare for Christmas with our families. And, of course, it is all the more difficult for Chris's family. Please remember them as you celebrate. Please pray for God's comfort on them at this difficult time and for the repose of Chris's soul. 

As you know, it has always been our hope and prayer that Chris did not die under these circumstances in vain and that good might come of it. Chris's case was followed by people nationwide. His case brought to light how euthanasia is here - in Texas - and what that means for you and me. When people realize this, they are usually shocked and concerned. Many want to know how to act to stop this practice immediately. I have always seen it as part of my life's mission to bring education and awareness to this issue. Toward that goal, I have followed the lawsuit Chris filed prior to his death almost from the beginning. I have blogged about the underlying moral, legal, and ethical issues his case brought to light for many - including what it exposed as the core beliefs of a number of pro-TADA supporters who are members of alleged pro-life groups that advocate for legislation on this very issue that is neither pro-life nor pro-patient. I also poured over the pleadings, legal arguments, and facts in a sometimes lengthy posts to help you understand what this is all about, what the stakes are, and to set the record straight when it was muddled by those who think TADA is just fine and dandy. 

In the interim, I have kept up with the ongoing litigation he began which seeks to have the Texas Advance Directives Act declared unconstitutional. The status of the case is that there is a docket call on January 6, 2017, for trial which is set for January 9, 2017. However, the attorneys for Methodist have filed an unopposed Motion for Continuance. It appears that more time for discovery is needed, which is the fact finding phase in lawsuits. 

Meanwhile, the Court has yet to rule on the Motions I discussed in my last Update about the case, which argued for and against the Constitutionality of TADA. I wrote there about how Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a brief opposing TADA, which is significant because normally the AG is charged with upholding the laws in the state and defending them. Our own AG believes this law to be unconstitutional and will not defend it in court. Clearly, this law should be overturned in Texas. The legislature should act accordingly in the coming months to do so, regardless of how the Court rules. 

The next session of the Texas Legislature will begin in January 2017. I pray that they take up this issue and that we get rid of TADA for good. I will do my part in that regard and I hope you will also. 

Credit: Texas Right to Life

Texas Right to Life has written a tribute to Chris and a call to action for everyone: 
Most Texans never learn about this law until they face the terrifying process of imposed death of a loved one by hospital committee. Chris was not the first victim, and he will not be the last. Texas Right to Life is the only statewide organization that provides support to the victims of this law, and we have assisted countless families racing against the clock under this draconian TADA. In this sense, Chris's story is not unique, sadly. What makes Chris's story different is the tremendous courage he and his mother showed in their desire to fight for other patients.
This is true. In November of this year I was asked to attend another "ethics committee" meeting where the hospital was seeking to withdraw life-sustaining care from a man against his family's wishes. The family had never heard of this law, were taken aback by what was happening to them, and could not believe that this was possible in America at all, let alone pro-life Texas. The family was unanimous and unified in their opposition to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment for their loved one. I met with the family and we attended the hearing together. 

The committee members could not have cared less what the family had to say. In fact, by the time we were allowed in, the meeting about the patient's condition had already occurred without us - even as we were standing in the waiting room waiting to be allowed in. When we were finally called in, the chairman let us know in no uncertain terms that they had already discussed the patient's condition without us. The family asked why the treating doctors who made the decision as to their loved one's "futility" were not in the meeting. We were told it was because it was their day off. (I hope you can see the lack of due process here, how the cards are stacked against a family, the farcical nature of this proceeding, and even the flippancy with which it is conducted.) 

The family was allowed to speak and expressed - with medical literature - why they believed their loved one should not be killed by withdrawal of his life-sustaining care. The two primary members of the committee dozed off repeatedly during the meeting, including the one who was chairing it. That's right. The two members of the committee most eager and vocal about withdrawing care to hasten a man's death against his family's wishes SLEPT during parts of the meeting while the family addressed them. THEY. SLEPT. 

When those two sleeping members were awake, they were overtly hostile and rude to the family members who could not have been more prepared, gracious, and composed under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. How did these two committee members respond - that is, when they were awake? They were hostile toward the family and actually raised their voices to those representing the family when fine points of the law were calmly presented to them. 

It was abundantly clear that anyone who would dare oppose the hospital's edict to kill a man prematurely by withdrawing his care enraged these members. Another one of the committee members, a doctor, asked what law we were even talking about. He was completely ignorant of the legal authority they were using even as he sat on the committee that would potentially render the final decision to kill a man. It was as if he was shocked that they even needed to have a law to allow them to make these determinations. I thought that said a lot.

I have never been in a meeting with more blatant hostility and anger than this one toward a family, which remained calm and composed. Besides the lack of civility and kindness exhibited by these committee members, I was also appalled by the aforementioned doctor who was totally ignorant of the law. He was utterly confused by references to law at all. I had to explain to him that there was a statute and that that was why they could even have this meeting in the first place. Only two of the 12 or so there uttered a single kind, calm word; the two already mentioned two were hostile when they were not sleeping; one was ignorant of the law and confused; and the others were dead silent, avoided interaction with anyone, avoided eye contact, and/or looked bored or disinterested, if not annoyed by being there at all. When the family finished their presentation, not a single member asked a question. 

The whole experience was completely stunning - and remember this was not my first rodeo. This was actually worse than the meeting I attended in 2015 where the neurologist advocating for a man's hastened death compared him to an animal in the forest, who, had it been still as long as the ill man had been, "he would have been eaten." This "doctor" said that to this man's family. I wrote about that experience here. In time, I may write more extensively about this latest "ethics committee" meeting I attended, but I will leave it here for now. 

Make no mistake about it, although we made some limited progress in reforming aspects of TADA in the last session, this is not a pro-life or pro-patient law. I don't see how it can be made into one. It completely lacks any semblance of due process and hospitals are still finding plenty of ways under the law to seek to kill patients against their will or their families' will by withdrawing life-sustaining care. 

This is not what we should be satisfied with in Texas. Take up Texas Right to Life's call and notify your state representatives and senators and let them know that enough is enough with TADA. It needs to be repealed. You can go to that link, type in your address, and find out who represents you and their contact information. It is not too early to set the tone for the next legislative session. 

Let's all do what we can to stand for life and protect the most vulnerable among us. One of these days, that vulnerable person could be you or your loved one. It is not pro-life to hasten death by the withdrawal of life-sustaining care against a patient or his family's wishes. Remember, we err, if we err at all, on the side of life. Always. 

Thanks for reading! 

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!