It’s very rarely good medicine to encourage a symptom of disease, especially one that leads to harm. I don’t help raise a patient’s temperature when they have a fever. I treat the infection and to keep the temperature from going up to dangerous levels.
In every case of cutting and self harm that I saw in my practice, the several girls and one boy had already been the victim of sexual abuse and were also abusing alcohol or drugs. The cutting was a symptom of depression, post-traumatic stress and the victimization that started the cascade.
And yet, the Journal of Medical Ethics has published an article arguing that since cutters are going to cut, doctors should aide them by providing sterile knives or razors.
The Journal is actually a forum for public arguments on controversial topics in bioethics, rather than a policy manual or review of facts and best practices. However, far too often the subjects are treated with respect and support those same controversial ideas.
The online bioethics newsletter, Mercatornet, disputes this normalization of pathology and outlines the history of support and opposition to the concept of “safe” self harm.
Indeed, the argument for limiting harm is often given as the reason for elective abortion, physician assisted death and other forms of euthanasia.
Please, apply the suicide or cutting to illegal drug use. Does the rationale follow through? If a person is only happy after heroin, should we assist him by allowing and providing a cleaner, more pure product – as well as the needles so many State laws have made possible?
Cook sarcastically sums up with an imaginary Tweet:
“Bioethics is broken. Doctors respecting patients who make really BAD decisions. All because of AUTONOMY. DUMB!!! Back to human dignity!!!”
I have long described Bioethics as “the formal study of who we can kill.” Now, we can add, “and aid in harming.”
“After a special workshop held at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, over a dozen bioethicists signed a ten-point“Consensus Statement on Conscientious Objection in Healthcare.” The group stated that “healthcare practitioners’ primary obligations are towards their patients, not towards their own personal conscience”. As a consequence, “healthcare practitioners who are exempted from performing certain medical procedures on conscientious grounds should be required to compensate society and the health system for their failure to fulfil their professional obligations by providing public-benefitting services.” They also stated that “Medical students should not be exempted from learning how to perform basic medical procedures they consider to be morally wrong.”
“This implies that regional authorities, in order to be able to provide medical services in a timely manner, should be allowed to make hiring decisions on the basis of whether possible employees are willing to perform medical procedures to which other healthcare practitioners have a conscientious objection.”
Sigh . . . There are still people out there trying to justify elective abortion of healthy babies in healthy mothers by claiming that the embryo is nothing special, since liver tissue is alive when it is harvested for transplantation and ” . . . a skin cell contains DNA that could be implanted into a human egg and be developed into a baby.”
That hypotheticals is, at this time, just that. No one has yet been able to clone humans beyond a very early blastocyst. In some way, these embryos don’t function well enough to maintain organized cell division, development and growth.
However, even if cloning a human were possible, that new human life would not begin at the harvesting of either the skin cell, the liver tissue or the oocyte destined to be enucleated. Just as with gametes in vivo, those cells are end-stage specialized cells that do *not* actually have the potential to be other types of cells – much less a new human – without fertilization or the manipulation that scientists might someday be able to discover.
The natural, in vitro, or someday-maybe cloned human life begins at fertilization or not-yet-achieved generation of functional clones. Each are – or would be, in the case of the hypothetical – verifiable by observing the organized cell function, development and division in the embryo, driven by the nucleus of the new organism. Intentional, interventional abortion ends that organized development and growth, causing the death of the organism.
I’m sure my explanation won’t stop those who really, really, reeeally want to abort unwanted humans from using junk science to justify killing humans. Most likely, they will just go back to those long essays discriminating between which humans are human-enough.
How human is human enough for human rights?
Justice Taney on slavery, in the ruling on the Dred Scott case:
The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement [people of Aftican ancestry] compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them. “
Nevertheless, today’s Supreme Court hearing didn’t deal with the question of whether the zygote/embryo /fetus is human enough. It dealt with the regulations for abortion businesses and the doctors who work for them. These are essentially the same rules imposed on Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers.
Doctors must offer continuing care and the buildings should allow safe egress and sanitary standards of care. The challenge is against State protections for the women who have chosen abortion.
Posted from WordPress for Android. Typos will be corrected!
“”For young women aged 14–19, the presence of those four strains of HPV (and some others) were found to drop by an incredible 64 percent overall, and by 34 percent in women aged 20–24.””
There’s also a link to a study that indicates that there is no increase in sexual activity or early sexual activity after the vaccination, “as measured by pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease infections and/or contraceptive counseling for up to three years after vaccination.”
I do strongly disagree with the author about abstinence -based sex-ed: Abstinence works 100% of the time it is use correctly and consistently.
Someone named Rich DeOtte has written a Facebook piece attacking friends of mine. Rich mocks Dr. Joe Pojman as “a rocket scientist” and “knucklehead” (needless to say, that’s not popular in the Nuckols household) and takes a slap at Kyleen Wright, of Texans for Life Coalition and the Texas Medical Association.
Dr. Joe Pojman, Ph.D., is indeed a “rocket scientist,” who gave up his original career path of aerospace engineering to sacrifice as founder and Executive Director of Texas Alliance for Life, an organization I’m proud to support and serve as a Board member.
Joe wrote the op-ed that Rich attacks in direct response to the “misrepresentations” in another, political op-ed piece by Emily Kebedeaux Cook on the Texas Right to Life Website. Joe only wrote about issues, and did not engage in name calling or derision. The only reason Emily and TRTL are mentioned is because she’s the author of the political opinion piece about the “decline in the Texas Legislature’s efforts to protect human Life.”
As Joe points out, the very document to which Emily refers refutes her position: Texas was named one of three “Life List All-Stars” for 2016 by the Americans United for Life.
Joe laid out the case that our Texas Legislature’s pro-life laws are most definitely not at a standstill: we are ahead of the Nation. Joe’s position that Texas leaders gave us many successes in the 2015 84th Legislature is supported by the similar list of “Wins” reported by the Texas Catholic Conference, representing the Bishops of Texas. In an earlier letter, TCC notes that many of the criticisms Emily makes in her February 8th blog post were not previously scored “equitably” by TRTL. For instance, Senator Bob Deuell received no credit for authoring much of what became HB2.
In fact, Texas’ Legislative leadership in passing pro-life laws is why many of us are going to Washington, DC on March 2nd to bear witness when the Supreme Court hears testimony on the abortion facility regulations in HB2.
Emily and Rich focus most of their criticism on the efforts of pro-life groups, including doctors like me, to reform end of life care and the Texas Advance Directive Act (TADA). Session after session since it was passed, we in the pro-life community have had our efforts repeatedly blocked by the “death panel” accusations Rich makes and the demands in Emily’s op-ed.
I was one of the doctors appointed to the Texas Medical Association ad hoc committee that evaluated last sessions’ end of life Bills for TMA approval. Our group of doctors agreed to and helped fine tune HB 3074, what Emily called a “modest protection”: prohibiting the removal of Artificially Administered Nutrition and Hydration, including food and water by invasive medical methods like IV’s and “Total Parenteral Nutrition.” We were called anti-life and pro-“death panel” (Rich’s words) for including medical exceptions for the rare circumstances when the patient can’t process the AANH and/or when it actually caused harm.
Those “three strongest Pro-Life bills” that Emily mentioned were included in the “Wins” listed by the TCC. The Bills not only would have forced doctors to continue to indefinitely perform acts that we believe are not medically appropriate as long as a patient or his family demands it. They would have forced all disputes between the doctors practicing medicine and patients or their families into court and add “liability”(civil and criminal penalties) for the doctor.
Forget if you can, that if all disputes go to court judges would be required to determine medical care – to practice medicine – probably based on the testimony of dueling, paid medical expert doctors. Malpractice rates will go up for doctors taking on the most vulnerable patients – the elderly, the trauma victims and the victims of cancer. Those doctors will spend more time in courts, rather than in the ICU. And so will more grieving families.
We found out what happens when malpractice goes up in Texas, before tort reform was passed. Because of the malpractice crisis, there were no neurosurgeons west and south of San Antonio and Houston – none at all in El Paso or all of South Texas. We were losing obstetricians and family doctors willing to deliver babies and offer prenatal care, all over the State.
I don’t know how to translate past physician shortages directly into the possible shortage of doctors providing end of life care. However, I will predict that fewer family doctors, internists, pulmonologists and the ICU intensivists will be able to afford to practice in the ICU. Just as a patient had to be flown to Dallas, San Antonio or Houston from most of Texas for a head injury, only the tertiary medical centers in those cities will be able to staff their ICU’s properly.
Physicians, not hospitals – and certainly not courts – practice medicine in Texas. Doctors must be allowed to practice medicine according to our medical judgment, which is a combination of education and experience, under the watchful eye of the community; not “death panels,” but fellow physicians, nurses, ethicists, lawyers (who may be any of the former) and lay people. In the end, if you force the hands and minds of doctors against their judgment, you will end up with doctors practicing without judgment, and humans with inalienable rights forced to act against our will and in violation of our conscience.
And, now, back to Rich’s Facebook post. Think twice when you read political posts full of personal attacks and name calling. We should be able to discuss politics without, as Emily said in her blog post, “unnecessary, vicious, and vindictive fights inside the Republican Party.”
Edited to fix a name glitch – BBN
Rights impose duties on third parties, privileges do not.
Abortion, especially elective abortion of healthy babies in healthy mothers, is not a right. It is an illicit privilege granted by an act of law. No one has a duty to enable or act to cause an elective abortion at the request of a woman.
It is an “illicit” privilege, since the right not to be killed is an inalienable right. Each of us in society has a duty imposed by that right to prevent its infringement.
Edited 1/27/16 to clean up grammar and add links. BBN
Death, lies and video
Supported only by his imagination, what he saw in videos produced by Texas Right to Life lawyers, and a news article,Dr. Phillip Hawley, Jr., M.D., wrote “A Tragic Case of Modern Bioethics; Denying Life-Sustaining Treatment to a Patient Who Wanted to Live” about the truly tragic, but inevitable death of Chris Dunn. Hawley erred by pretending to read the minds of doctors and hospital representatives and calling complete strangers “utilitarian” “murderers.” Before discussing the ethics of his accusations, it’s necessary to explain the meaning of the documented facts, available in news sources, blog posts and court records:
It is very unlikely that Chris understood his condition, the questions the lawyers were asking or the consequences of his “prayer.” That he was unable to make medical decisions is supported by the fact that his parents had been making his medical decisions. The Harris County judge agreed with the hospital’s request that a single legal guardian be named by a separate court.
“Life-sustaining treatment,” “medically inappropriate” and “Artificially Administered Nutrition and Hydration” are legal terms defined in the Texas Advance Directive Act (TADA), which outlines the exact procedure and language for communications between doctors, the hospital committee, and patients or their surrogates. The use, monitoring and adjustment of a mechanical ventilator is in the definition of “life-sustaining treatments.” TADA specifically excludes “Artificially Administered Nutrition and Hydration” (AANH) in the definition of “life sustaining treatments,” which would argue against the accusation that his doctors planned to withdraw “food and water.”
The only legal reason under TADA to remove any “life-sustaining treatment” is that it is deemed “medically inappropriate” by the attending physician and then only if the hospital medical or ethics committee “affirms” that decision. If and when they are withheld, the Act specifically prohibits “mercy killing” or otherwise intentionally intervening with the intent to cause death by artificial means.
Additional demands by Chris’ mother, Mrs. Kelly, and the lawyers in blogs and news articles would have also fallen under the legal definition of “life-sustaining treatment.” These demands included a biopsy in order to determine a definitive tissue diagnosis for the clinically apparent pancreatic cancer and liver lesions, a surgical tracheostomy and the removal of the ventilator (to be fair, I believe they meant the tube through the vocal chords), less sedation, searches for and trials of treatment of the cancer, and the non-standard use of an indwelling drain for the ascites (large exudates in the abdomen due to high pressures in the liver and the failure of the liver to make necessary proteins). These are invasive, potentially painful and, based on the reported size and effects of the mass, the extent of liver damage visibly evident in the videos as temporal wasting and copper-colored skin, ascites and the GI bleeding – they were very unlikely to lengthen his life, much less cure his cancer. In fact they could be very likely to hasten – or be the immediate cause of – his death.
Chris died in the ICU on full life-sustaining treatments, including the ventilator and intravenous AANH.
The doctors are on record as basing their decision on the suffering caused by the treatments to their patient, Chris. This is consistent with the known side-effects of the ventilator and even reports from Chris’ mother, who told reporters that Chris suffered from the treatments and fluid building up in his lungs despite the ventilator. And yet, Dr. Hawley made sensational statements such as:
“For patients with terminal illnesses, this standard often leads to the utilitarian question: Is the patient’s life still worth living?
“In Chris Dunn’s case, the committee’s answer was “no.” Relative strangers with little or no knowledge of his values and beliefs weighed his “quality of life” and decided that he no longer deserved to live.”
“. . . How did these committee members who had only recently met the patient—if they ever met him at all—know that it was in his best interest for them to end his life?”
“. . . But, somehow, we are to believe that these committee members were able to deduce existential truths about what was in Chris Dunn’s best interest?”
The physicians who cared for Mr. Dunn for over a month had certainly met him and members of the Methodist Hospital Biomedical Ethics Committee met with the family several times. Court documents are clear that the doctors believed the life-sustaining treatments were causing suffering and that the committee agreed that the treatments were medically inappropriate. There certainly is no evidence that the doctors or the committee members sought to intentionally “end” Chris’ life. “Medically inappropriate treatment” is not an “existential truth” and never in the patient’s best interest.
(Some may remind us that suffering can have benefits. However, Mr. Dunn couldn’t consent to suffering, much less benefit from the suffering, whether as a medical treatment or a willing religious self-sacrifice.)
Robert P. George is one of my heroes a conservative tenured professor of law and ethics at Princeton and one of the founders of the Witherspoon Institute, an organization known for its defense of Judeo-Christian ethics based on natural law, and the parent organization of Public Discourse. He has helpfully outlined a “key” to evaluate the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining care:
“[T]he key is the distinction between what traditionally has been called “direct killing,” where death (one’s own or someone else’s) is sought either as an end in itself or as a means to some other end, and accepting death or the shortening of life as a foreseen side effect of an action or omission whose object is something other than death—either some good that cannot be achieved or some evil that cannot be avoided without resulting in death or the shortening of life.”
George and Hawley each point to a value in medicine that is higher than autonomy or even preserving life at all costs: the duty of physicians to care for the patient. “Cure when possible, but first, do no harm.”
The lawyers didn’t just sue to maintain “life-sustaining treatments,” or even Mrs. Kelly’s right to force the doctors to treat Chris the way she wanted them to. The lawsuit, blog posts and public statements document the ultimate goal to have TADA declared unconstitutional and to force all doctors to give patients and surrogates the right to demand any and all desired treatment indefinitely. The power of State courts, law enforcement and licensing would be used to force Texas doctors to carry out acts against our medical judgment, education, experience and conscience.
What justification can the lawyers and Dr. Hawley give for not believing the physicians who care for patients daily and hourly when those caretakers document that the patient is suffering?
What kind of physicians will we end up with if the State can force us to act without judgement or conscience?
What kind of State would we have?
Based on a video and his imagined conversations between “malevolent” and “utilitarian” doctors and hospitals, Hawley declares Texas a “morally impoverished society.” Ignoring sworn statements from the physicians and misrepresenting TADA, he distorts the purpose of the Texas Advance Directive Act, which is to address the problems encountered when patients and surrogates disagree., Only by assuming evil intent is he able to force doctors to prove a negative and distract from any possibility of a conflict between the equal and inalienable rights of the patient and the doctor.
While the video of Chris apparently praying to be allowed to live wrenched at our emotions, it was used to tell a false story upon which Dr. Hawley built his harmful assumptions. We would all do well to remember my Mama’s advice: Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”
Edited for grammar and decrease wordiness and formatting (1-15-16). BBN
Laws relating to medical ethics debates are generally behind medical advances.
Unfortunately, those debates often become emotional and heated, and the individuals who are affected often face the “hard questions” of ethical dilemmas while reacting to life and death emergencies. When law-making is controversial, it’s best to go back to the basics of ethics for guidance: the inalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” the Declaration of Independence, and Constitution.
All laws limit our rights, but good laws are based on the fact that these inalienable rights are negative rights: they are meant to prevent one person – or the government – from infringing the rights of another. Ethical laws strike a balance between seemingly conflicting rights. They prohibit or punish harmful actions, but they don’t compel a desired action against the will.
However, since there is a hierarchy of rights (the right to life trumps the right to liberty and property, liberty trumps property, etc.), there are very rare circumstances when it is appropriate for laws to compel individuals to act for the benefit of another. These laws should only go so far as to protect the life and freedom of the vulnerable patient or client, for a limited time with the goal of allowing safe transfer of the obligation to someone else.
For instance, parents are required to care for and protect their minor children since they are helpless and unable to legally consent or make contracts. And State laws require that doctors and lawyers be licensed, obtain certain levels of education, and follow specific, positive actions when they wish to withdraw from a professional relationship with or refuse the request of a patient or client.
That brings us to the controversy over the Texas Advance Directive Act of 1999 (“TADA” or “the Act”). In addition to describing “Advance Directives to Physicians” (also known as a “Living Will), TADA also attempts to outline the procedure for resolving any disagreement between a doctor and patients or their surrogates regarding medical treatments, especially concerning end of life care.
When I first read the Act, I (naively) thought it was malpractice protection for doctors who did not want to withdraw or withhold care. There have actually been a few “wrongful prolongation of life” lawsuits against doctors who – knowingly or not – used CPR when the patient had a Living Will.
Most of the time, however, TADA is invoked when the attending physician “refuses” a request to actively administer medical treatment that he or she believes is medically inappropriate. The steps laid out in the law involve the doctor’s notification of his refusal to the patient or the surrogate, the rules for assisting with transfer of care to another doctor who believes the treatment request is appropriate, and asking for a medical or ethics committee to be convened at the hospital. If no other willing doctor can be found and the committee agrees with the doctor, the treatment can be withheld or withdrawn (after 10 days). During that time, full life-sustaining treatment must continue and the hospital is required to provide medical records and to actively assist in looking for another doctor and/or hospital.
The law does never allow patients to be killed by intentionally stopping breathing. The law does prohibit withholding of pain medicine or comfort care and the removal of “artificially administered nutrition and hydration.
Medical judgment is how doctors utilize our education, experience, and consciences as we plan and anticipate the effect of each medical intervention or treatment. “Life sustaining treatments are not “basic” or “usual care.” Nor are they one-time events without consequences. The interventions require a physician to administer and maintain. They must be monitored by observation and tests, and adjustments need to be made intermittently so that the treatment is effective and not harmful. They may lead to further more invasive and aggressive interventions and the need for the skills of other doctors in other specialties.
In some cases, patients and their advocates report trouble finding other doctors willing to provide the treatment that the first doctor thought was inappropriate. In my opinion, that difficulty is due to physicians’ common education and shared experiences – to medical reality, not ill intent.
Texas law is clear that only doctors may practice medicine by diagnosing and treating patients directly or “ordering” other medical personnel. Although TADA outlines specific duties for hospitals and hospital medical or ethics committees who determine whether or not the care is medically inappropriate, the process can only be invoked by the “attending physician” who is being asked to act against his medical judgment. The committee acts as a safeguard, to uphold medical ethics and the standard of medical care. In a formal meeting, the committee members review the case and either agree or disagree with the doctor as to whether he or she is correct about what is “medically inappropriate” treatment, for the patient.
Unfortunately, the Act has become known as the “Texas Futile Care Law,” and divides even the pro-life community. One side claims that doctors, hospitals and hospital committees are biased and should not be allowed to determine medically inappropriate care, and that doctors are obligated to give any and all desired treatment “until transfer.” Others want each case to go to court, where lawyers, judges and juries would settle every difference of opinion about “medically appropriate treatment.”
Ultimately, even the lawyers would need to consult doctors, unless the judges start writing orders for doctors, nurses, and medical professionals.
Our laws normally prohibit actions and only very rarely compel people to act. Under the conditions laid out in TADA, it is possible that the doctor can be forced to act against his medical judgment, but only for a limited, stated period of time. TADA is an attempt to balance conflicting rights: the patient’s wishes for medical intervention with liberty of the physician to practice medicine to the best of his judgment and conscience.
I’ll admit that I’m not a lawyer and have to do my homework to even attempt to understand lawyer-speak. (For example, see this definition of “Abatement”) How I wish more lawyers would admit they aren’t doctors, especially when they accuse doctors and entire hospital committees of killing patients.
Earlier this week, I reviewed the latest sensationalized case involving lawyers and lawyer-lobbyists playing doctor in the media and courts to overturn Section 166.046 of the Texas Advance Directive Act (“TADA”).
TADA outlines the process to settle disputes between an attending physician and the patient (or the family of a patient) when the medical judgment of the doctor about what is medically appropriate for the patient conflicts with the demands for treatment that the patient or family wants *that* particular doctor to perform.
Texas law prohibits the removal of “artificially administered nutrition and hydration” and pain medications unless the doctors determine they will cause further harm. However, a ventilator, intubation tubes in the throat, cardio-version (CPR), surgery and invasive procedures or tests are not ordinary or comfort care and are considered “life-sustaining” treatment that may be removed or withheld from a patient with a terminal disease if the patient’s doctor determines that are not medically appropriate. There is certainly no provision in Texas law to intentionally stop a patient’s breathing or to otherwise cause certain death.
The lawyers lobbying and suing against TADA admit in both public statements and legal complaints that they will settle for nothing less than “Due Process,” lawyer-speak reference to the Fourteenth Amendment clause, “due process of law.” They demand that every dispute about medically appropriate care between doctors and patients be argued – by lawyers – in court, preferably with a risk of “liability” for the doctor, any committee member who reviews the case under TADA, and the hospital where the patient is under care. Judges, and possibly juries, would determine the local medical standard of care, which medical procedures are appropriate for which patients, and liability. Lawyers and judges would essentially practice medicine instead of doctors.
To summarize this latest case, court records document** the affidavit from the attending physician of a 46 year old Pasadena, Texas man, Chris Dunn. Mr. Dunn was admitted to the ICU at Houston’s Methodist hospital unresponsive after a major gastrointestinal bleed due to metastatic pancreatic cancer led to his emergency transfer from a hospital in his hometown. Mr. Dunn was on a ventilator and suffering from liver, kidney, and respiratory failure. He had fluid in his lungs, necessitating higher and higher pressures on the ventilator. He had fluid leaking into the abdominal cavity due to the liver failure, ascites, that required intermittent draining. He also suffered from hepatic encephalopathy, a form of variable dementia and delirium. His doctors and his father agreed that the repetitive, invasive treatments necessary to maintain the ventilator and treat the multi-organ failure should be stopped because they were causing Mr. Dunn harm, while comfort care would continue.
In their lawsuit against the hospital, a group of lawyers brought in by Mr. Dunn’s mother and Texas Right to Life sued the hospital in Mr. Dunn’s name, although there was a question about both Mr. Dunn’s ability to legally consent and the legal status of either parent alone to make medical decisions on Mr. Dunn’s behalf. In fact, the court ruled an “Abatement” or suspension of the lawsuit on December 4, 2015, until the legal guardianship for Mr. Dunn could be settled in another court. And, sadly, in spite of continued treatment in the Intensive Care Unit, on a ventilator, with IV and tube feedings, and all the repetitive blood tests, suctioning, and invasive procedures these treatments required, Mr. Dunn succumbed to his disease before that other court could meet to name a guardian.
In their lawsuit against the hospital, the lawyers even accuse “the facility” (not the attending doctor) of planning to actively euthanize Mr. Dunn by the deliberate use of injections intended to cause his death, rather than to relieve his pain:
“Defendant scheduling . . . and Defendant administering, via injection, a combination of drugs which will end his life almost immediately, thus warranting immediate intervention by this court.” (**p.2)
The lawyers further declared that the doctors and the Methodist Biomedical Ethics Committee – and every doctor or hospital committee – would be corrupted by their affiliation with the hospital:
“The statute does not provide adequate safeguards to protect against the conflict of interest inherently present when the treating physician’s decision is reviewed by the hospital “ethics committee” to whom the physician has direct financial ties.
“Texas Health and Saftey [sic] Code violates Plaintiff’s right to procedural due process by failing to provide an adequate venue for Plaintiff and those similarly situated to be heard in this critical life-ending decision. The law also fails to impose adequate evidentiary safeguards against hospitals and doctors by allowing them to make the decision to terminate life-sustaining treatment in their own unfettered discretion.” (**pp. 5,6)
“Under Tex. Health and Safety Code 166.046, a fair and impartial tribunal did not and could not hear Dunn’s case. “Ethics committee” members from the treating hospital cannot be fair and impartial, when the propriety of giving Dunn’s expensive life-sustaining treatment must be weighed against a potential economic loss to the very entity which provides those members of the “ethics committee” with privileges and a source of income.” (**p. 7)
Lawyer-speak notwithstanding, I can’t figure out – and the lawyers don’t tell us – how to ensure that “unfettered” pancreatic cancer presenting with multi-organ failure followed “due process” in Mr. Dunn’s case. Other than lawyers from each side hiring and paying even more doctors to re-examine the patient and re-view the existing medical records, repeated clinical exams and nurses’ notes, lab work and non-invasive scans of the liver and abdomen, what would a judge or jury consider “evidentiary safeguards against doctors and hospitals?”
But in news article after blog post, lawyers (but no doctors) claimed that “the hospital wanted to kill” Mr. Dunn. Lawyers (but no doctors) claimed there were un-named additional tests and treatments which could have changed the diagnosis, treatment or prognosis. Lawyers (but no doctors) disputed the medical judgment of the very doctors from whom the lawsuit demanded continued intensive care.
In their lawsuit, the lawyers also declared that, “Members of a fair and impartial tribunal should not only avoid a conflict of interest, they should avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, especially when a patient’s life is at stake.” (*p. 7) But that didn’t stop them from including an ironic and self-serving demand that Methodist hospital pay their “Attorney fees and costs.” (p. 12)
**(Protected “.pdf” “Images” of the original legal documents quoted below can be found online, here. The document images aren’t link-able and can’t be copied or printed, so I will have to type up and share quotes. See Family case number 2015-69681. The quotes above are from document number 6796448.pdf, “Plaintiff’s Original Verified Petition and Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Injunctive Relief.”)
Here’s Section 166.046 of the Texas Advance Directive Act, the part of Texas Law that is in the news, these days. This part only applies when there is a disagreement between the doctor (whom the patient wants to continue treatment) and the patient or his surrogate about treatment decisions.
Sec. 166.046. PROCEDURE IF NOT EFFECTUATING A DIRECTIVE OR TREATMENT DECISION. (a) If an attending physician refuses to honor a patient’s advance directive or a health care or treatment decision made by or on behalf of a patient, the physician’s refusal shall be reviewed by an ethics or medical committee. The attending physician may not be a member of that committee. The patient shall be given life-sustaining treatment during the review.
(b) The patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the individual who has made the decision regarding the directive or treatment decision:
(1) may be given a written description of the ethics or medical committee review process and any other policies and procedures related to this section adopted by the health care facility;
(2) shall be informed of the committee review process not less than 48 hours before the meeting called to discuss the patient’s directive, unless the time period is waived by mutual agreement;
(3) at the time of being so informed, shall be provided:
(A) a copy of the appropriate statement set forth in Section 166.052; and
(B) a copy of the registry list of health care providers and referral groups that have volunteered their readiness to consider accepting transfer or to assist in locating a provider willing to accept transfer that is posted on the website maintained by the department under Section 166.053; and
(4) is entitled to:
(A) attend the meeting;
(B) receive a written explanation of the decision reached during the review process;
(C) receive a copy of the portion of the patient’s medical record related to the treatment received by the patient in the facility for the lesser of:
(i) the period of the patient’s current admission to the facility; or
(ii) the preceding 30 calendar days; and
(D) receive a copy of all of the patient’s reasonably available diagnostic results and reports related to the medical record provided under Paragraph (C).
(c) The written explanation required by Subsection (b)(4)(B) must be included in the patient’s medical record.
(d) If the attending physician, the patient, or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the individual does not agree with the decision reached during the review process under Subsection (b), the physician shall make a reasonable effort to transfer the patient to a physician who is willing to comply with the directive. If the patient is a patient in a health care facility, the facility’s personnel shall assist the physician in arranging the patient’s transfer to:
(1) another physician;
(2) an alternative care setting within that facility; or
(3) another facility.
(e) If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the ethics or medical committee has affirmed is medically inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). This subsection does not authorize withholding or withdrawing pain management medication, medical procedures necessary to provide comfort, or any other health care provided to alleviate a patient’s pain. The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The attending physician, any other physician responsible for the care of the patient, and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after both the written decision and the patient’s medical record required under Subsection (b) are provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient unless ordered to do so under Subsection (g), except that artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providing artificially administered nutrition and hydration would:
(1) hasten the patient’s death;
(2) be medically contraindicated such that the provision of the treatment seriously exacerbates life-threatening medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
(3) result in substantial irremediable physical pain not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
(4) be medically ineffective in prolonging life; or
(5) be contrary to the patient’s or surrogate’s clearly documented desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.
(e-1) If during a previous admission to a facility a patient’s attending physician and the review process under Subsection (b) have determined that life-sustaining treatment is inappropriate, and the patient is readmitted to the same facility within six months from the date of the decision reached during the review process conducted upon the previous admission, Subsections (b) through (e) need not be followed if the patient’s attending physician and a consulting physician who is a member of the ethics or medical committee of the facility document on the patient’s readmission that the patient’s condition either has not improved or has deteriorated since the review process was conducted.
(f) Life-sustaining treatment under this section may not be entered in the patient’s medical record as medically unnecessary treatment until the time period provided under Subsection (e) has expired.
(g) At the request of the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient, the appropriate district or county court shall extend the time period provided under Subsection (e) only if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a reasonable expectation that a physician or health care facility that will honor the patient’s directive will be found if the time extension is granted.
(h) This section may not be construed to impose an obligation on a facility or a home and community support services agency licensed under Chapter 142 or similar organization that is beyond the scope of the services or resources of the facility or agency. This section does not apply to hospice services provided by a home and community support services agency licensed under Chapter 142.
Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 450, Sec. 1.03, eff. Sept. 1, 1999. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1228, Sec. 3, 4, eff. June 20, 2003.
Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1 (S.B. 219), Sec. 3.0503, eff. April 2, 2015.
Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 435 (H.B. 3074), Sec. 5, eff. September 1, 2015.
I am glad that the rules are explicit about the duty to report sexual or physical abuse.
Here’s a statement from Texas Alliance for Life, with links to the ruling:
Austin, TX — Today the Texas Supreme Court released rules for how courts handle judicial bypass proceedings regarding secret abortions on minors girls without parental notification or consent. The rules were created in response to HB 3994, authored by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) and sponsored by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and strongly supported by Texas Alliance for Life.
The following statement is attributed to Joe Pojman, Ph.D., executive director of Texas Alliance for Life:
We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s strong rules regarding the judicial bypass process for abortions on minor girls. These bring to fruition a 10-year effort by Texas Alliance for Life and a coalition of pro-life organizations to protect minor girls in Texas from abortion. In 2005, the Texas Legislature passed a bill requiring doctors to obtain the consent of a parent before performing abortions on minor girls. In 2015, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Abbott signed into law, HB 3994 to reform the judicial bypass process by which a judge can allow abortions on minors without parental consent. The reforms closed loopholes and increased protections for the minors from abuse. The Texas Supreme Court has faithfully implemented House Bill 3994 in a way that will best protect the well being of minor girls.
Here is a link to the Texas Supreme Court’s order issuing the rules: http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1225647/159246.pdf.
HB 3994 was one of five major pro-life bills and numerous other pro-life provisions passed in 2015. Here is a summary.
Texas Right to Life turned Mr. Dunn’s imminent death from metastatic pancreatic cancer into a crusade against the Texas Advance Directive Act (TADA or the Act). The Act is invoked by the attending doctor – not the hospital or ethics committee – when family members demand that he or she perform acts that go against the conscience because they are medically inappropriate, causing the patient to suffer without changing his course.
In this case, the mother and father disagreed with one another about the care plan and the patient was unable to make legally binding decisions. The father agreed with Mr. Dunn’s doctors that the treatment was causing suffering, objected to surgery to place a tracheostomy, and wanted hospice and comfort care. The mother wanted dangerous, painful procedures performed that would not change the medical outlook except to possibly hasten death.
And, unless you read the court records, you wouldn’t know that the judge ruled that Chris was not mentally competent to make his own medical decisions, that the hospital never wanted guardianship and had voluntarily promised to continue care until the guardianship could be settled. In fact all the lawyers, including the Texas Right to Life representatives, signed off on an agreement acknowledging this promise on December 4th. ( The official court records are available to view free of charge online at the Harris County District Clerk’s website as protected pdf images. See Family case number 2015- 69681.)
Inflammatory headlines falsely claimed that “the hospital” had imposed a “death sentence,” and was actively trying to kill Mr. Dunn by refusing to diagnose, treat or even give a prognosis. That same blog post mentioned non-standard treatments that some in the family were demanding.
First of all, of course there was a diagnosis. Several, in fact. From the signed affidavit of Mr. Dunn’s attending physician, filed December 2, 2015 in response to the law suit:
“Based on my education, training, experience, as well as my care of Mr. Dunn, I, and members of my team, have advised his family members that Mr. Dunn suffers from end stage liver disease, the presence of a pancreatic mass suspected to be malignant with metastasis to the liver and complications of gastric outlet obstruction secondary to his pancreatic mass. Further, he suffers from hepatic encephalopathy, acute renal failure, sepsis, acute respiratory failure, multi-organ failure, and gastrointestestinal bleed. I have advised members of Mr. Dunn’s family that it is my clinical opinion that Mr. Dunn’s present condition is irreversible and progressively terminal.”
The primary diagnosis was metastatic pancreatic cancer. The cancer was a mass that blocked the ducts and blood vessels coming from the liver as well as the normal function of the intestines. As liver excretions backed up into the liver and the blood pressure in the liver increased, Mr. Dunn suffered a life-threatening gastrointestinal bleed, fluid buildup in the abdomen and lungs, and sepsis (an overwhelming infection). All of these would aggravate respiratory failure, the necessity of a ventilator and lead to the kidney damage. Liver failure often results in hepatic encephalopathy and variable delirium.
There was definitely treatment given, including tube and IV feedings, antibiotics, the ventilator, and periodic removal of the abdominal fluid. Again, this was all publicly documented in Court documents, in the media and even on the Texas Right to Life blog that claimed that “Houston Methodist has invested no time or effort in Chris’s health, instead exerting their energies into trying to kill him instead.” [sic]
The Intensive Care doctors as well as the Biomedical Ethics Committee, met with the parents to explain Mr. Dunn’s condition and his prognosis. The family was given notice before the Committee hearing and met with the (not at all “nameless” or “faceless”) Committee to discuss their (differing) wants. Thirty days’ worth of medical records, a hospital case worker and assistance in finding alternative care were made available to the family.
Then, there’s the complaint about the limits on visitors and videotaping. It is not unusual to limit Intensive Care Unit visits to specific times and to allow only close family, especially when the patient can’t consent and there is contention among family members. It is certainly standard to prohibit filming in the Unit, since patients are visible from one area to the next, in various states of undress and undergoing constant or frequent *intensive* treatments.
(BTW, one of the lawyers in the TRTL ICU video proves the basis for the rules: he is not compliant with the usual isolation procedures. Former Senator Joe Nixon didn’t wear the protective gown at all correctly, risking the introduction of infectious contamination into the room and/or taking germs home with him.)
It’s very unusual for patients on a ventilator to be conscious because of the severe discomfort associated with the foreign body – the breathing tube – that is necessary in the airways. It’s difficult to believe that anyone would complain about sedating Mr. Dunn in order to bypass his gag reflex.
Finally, the standard of care in advanced metastatic pancreatic cancer is pain relief and palliative support. The surgery to remove a pancreas is extremely dangerous for even healthier patients. As Mr. Dunn had already had an episode of bleeding and both liver and kidney failure, it’s likely that even a biopsy of the pancreatic mass or liver, much less surgery, would have caused more life-threatening bleeding. With liver and kidney damage, he wouldn’t have been able to tolerate trials of radiation or chemotherapy, either.
In fact, the doctors and nurses gave excellent treatment all along, as shown by his survival beyond the average for patients who presented in such a precarious state and acknowledged by Mrs. Kelly in her statement after Chris’ death.
The truth is that Methodist never made plans to “kill” Mr. Dunn. Mr. Dunn was never in danger of the hospital “pulling the plug.” The real problem was a disagreement between Mr. Dunn’s divorced parents over who would legally make medical decisions. That rift is bound to have been made worse by TRTL and the lawyers turning Chris’ illness into a public political battle. The accusations about euthanasia, killing and murder may cause other future patients harm, if they are reluctant to seek care because of these stories.
We should at least have as much care for the donation of tissue from aborted human fetuses and embryos as we do for the donation of organs from those killed by capital punishment. Both scenarios involve purposeful intervention to cause death and the collection of tissues, at least, must be carried out by licensed and regulated medical personnel.
Robin Alta Charo (a law and ethics professor at the University of Wisconsin) has an opinion piece in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, “Fetal Tissue Fallout.” in which she claims that society has a “duty” to use tissues harvested after elective, intentional abortions.
I object to the idea that society has a “duty” to make use of the end products of either procedure. Both scenarios involve purposeful intervention to cause death by licensed and regulated medical personnel, making those of us who vote for the legislators who write laws complicit in the actions, at least remotely. Under a strict philosophy of ethics based on the protection of inalienable rights, each act should be weighed individually and should only be carried out when the one killed is a proven danger to the life or lives of others.
Robin justifies her elevation of the use of fetal tissues after elective abortion to that of a “duty” by citing past benefits of research using fetal tissues. She is more political and names past Republican supporters in an earlier op-ed, published in the Washington Post on August 4th.
Yes, society has benefited from these tissues. However, that picture at the side of this post depicts Dr. Frederick Robbins, one of the scientists who utilized fetal tissue in the 1950’s development of the Salk polio vaccine. Dr. Robbins is depicted smoking at work in the laboratory, while handling test tubes without gloves. We know better than that, now. Isn’t it time that science and medicine researchers catch up with our knowledge that the human fetus is a human being from the moment of fertilization?
Where are the Ethics Review Boards that monitor for the unethical behavior we’re hearing about in the videos from the Center for Medical Progress?
In 2013, the science journal, Nature, published an article covering the history and evolution of informed consent and compensation for donors of human tissues, including the fetal tissue culture, WI-28. Ms. Charo was quoted as supporting monetary compensation:
But, says Charo, “if we continue to debate it entirely in legal terms, it feels like we’re missing the emotional centre of the story”. It could be argued, she says, “that if somebody else is making a fortune off of this, they ought to share the wealth. It’s not a legal judgment. It’s a judgement about morality.”
Yes, “It’s not a legal judgment. It’s a judgement about morality.”
Texas Gulf Coast Planned Parenthood Director of Research, Melissa Farrell is very accommodating in the latest video release from the Center for Medical Progress. God help us!
We hear about the 40 to 50 abortions on babies 16 to 22 weeks at the abortion business and the fact that all 6 of their doctors perform these abortions.
They evidently have a lot of experience collecting “cadavers,” too.
And then, from about 9 minutes in, she shows the investigators the refrigerator where those cadavers are kept and the staff proudly sifts through a dish full of body parts. One was 20 week “twin.” Recognizable arms, legs, etc.
If you can’t bear to see the 4 to 5 month body parts, stop around minute 9. I couldn’t watch all of it at once.
We may not ever solve the problem of an irresponsible tabloid press and sensation-seeking media, since the freedom of speech is too important to infringe. But we do have power over those we license as physicians.
Dr. Walt Larimore enters the vaccine debate in his blog, not by suggesting forced vaccination, only the regulation of physicians. I wouldn’t support the recommendation without some leeway — I’m certainly not going to approve of every vaccine without a time trial in this very diverse lab that is the United States.
However, Dr. Larimore and his guest author, Dr. Russell C. Libby, are right to raise the ethical and medic0-legal responsibility of physicians who are licensed by the State and who advocate against good science and medical standards.
From the article:
“State medical boards must decide if the actions of healthcare practitioners who advocate against vaccination and undermine the public health efforts of their communities warrant investigation and intervention. There are a number physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals who trivialize and discourage immunization, whether it be for philosophical, financial, or self-promotional reasons.
“When the patients they influence contract preventable disease and have bad outcomes or they cause the spread to a vulnerable population, they should be held liable for malpractice. If it is in the midst of an outbreak or epidemic, medical boards need to sanction or suspend licenses.”
I’ve spent quite a bit of time — especially over the last week – attempting to educate interested people (including a family member) about the safety and usefulness or efficacy of vaccines. My motto for these arguments has always been that, “Truth will out,” and, “If we’re right, we should be able to teach and convince.”
However, within the last week, an irresponsible Texas radio host trotted out the discredited and un-licensed doctor who fabricated the MMR/autism fraud and a Canadian newspaper published a hit piece on Gardasil. (You can find them easily on Google – I won’t give them “hits” from my page.)
When licensed physicians – men and women who should know better – spread demonstrable lies, even after being found guilty of fraud or when demonstrably spreading harmful misinformation, there should be consequences.
You’ve got to see this! From the blog, rebel.md:
“The same boards that treat doctors like criminals during our “secure board examinations” blatantly copy each other’s press releases. They’re more than “fellow members of the community of medical boards”, they’re in collusion against their own diplomats. Each board claims they are independently responding to their individual specialties, but they are clearly well-organized as a single entity against us. I’m not sure what the CEO of the ABP does for that $1.2 million salary, but writing original press releases doesn’t appear to be within his scope.”
You’ve heard it said that Doc So-and-So is “Board Certified,” right? That means that he (or she) has taken a test or two – the Board exams for his (- assume I’ve said, “or she,” from now on) specialty – and maintains a certain level of credentialing and Continuing Medical Education (CME). While not mandated by law, in many cases, it’s a necessary hoop through which to jump if a doc plans to get hospital privileges or insurance contracts.
For Family Physicians, that used to mean that we took 50 hours of CME each year and re-took our Boards each 6 or 7 years. (The “security” around those “secure board examinations” became so onerous that I was fingerprinted several times on the day I took my third set: Once on entry to the exam room, once when I returned from lunch and then when I returned from a trip to the bathroom. They graciously supplied facial tissues, since we weren’t allowed to bring in our own into the room. In fact, we were required to place purses, wallets, etc., in a locker during the exams!)
Over the last 7 or so years, the American Board of Family Physicians has phased in a convoluted system of make-work and extra tests to assure our “Maintenance of Certification” or “MOC.” (Believe it or not, that’s a trademarked name, belonging to the American Board of Medical Specialties, the overlord of all Certifications.) It’s expensive and time consuming and frankly, is of no practical use other than as a source of the CME, which we were getting anyway. That didn’t stop the Boards from attempting to convince the Feds that our licenses and/or pay should be tied to their certification.
And the profit is a big deal. MOC is a great source of revenue for the Boards, which used to only receive our $1000 or so when we took the Boards. Now, they make much more. In 2010 (according to the latest tax form I can find), the ABFM took in $24Million from family docs, paid the President of the Board just shy of $800,000, socked away $12M in “excess” revenue, and has over $72 M in assets. Family docs who work hard don’t earn 1/4 of what Dr. Puffer is paid.
Many of us refuse to play any more. When I resigned from the American Academy of Family Physicians, I decided to drop the pretense of Board Certification, also. The MOC process was impossible for my practice as a locum tenens, working in other doc’s offices.
And I’m not alone in my dissent. See Dr. Charles Kroll’s video on the corruption within the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), here, and the letter from Dr. David D Fitzpatrick at the Authentic Medicine blog.
Well, the ABIM, unlike the ABFM which jumped on MOC before all the other specialties, sort of heard its members and has pledged to hold its fees stable (and struggle along on $43 Million a year in revenues) and delay a couple of requirements. The ABIM even apologized!
Well (again), the ABFM and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) certainly heard that! And they evidently were in the same meeting when it happened. How else to explain the fact that each sent out nearly identical letters to their members, including 120 matching words in phrases from 9 to 31 words long?
Contrast the Hippocratic ethic in which a physician recommends treatment to his patient, based on his best medical judgement in the patient’s interest, with that of the “veterinary ethic,” where decisions are made by the “payor” — or owner. Now, consider the effect of Government regulations which arbitrarily force doctors to learn protocols and guidelines (rather than adjust to the patient’s course of illness), to fit a patient’s illness into International Clinical Diagnoses (out to the nth decimal place) and which withhold payment when a patient becomes ill enough to need readmission to the hospital within 30 days of the last admission.
In an article published online by Cato, Dr. Jeffery Singer lays out the history of the destruction of Medicine as a profession. In the past, Dr. Singer described the ethical transition toward the “veterinary ethic.”
Each of these articles is worth your time and consideration. The first article gives one of the best explanations of the Government move to “coding” of medical diagnoses in exchange for
payment “reimbursement,” on through the forced move to Electronic Medical Records without evidence that patients will benefit and Accountable Care Organizations which assign patients to employee “providers.” The second, earlier article, reviewed the necessary change in medical ethics to allow doctors to practice without – or in contradiction to – their conscience.
Forget patient autonomy, long elevated by the lawmakers, lawyers and Ph.D’s (in the name of “Bioethics”) above the traditional physician Hippocratic values of beneficence and its foundation, non-maleficence. In the world of Government medicine, your life is in the hands of the “payor:” the Golden Rule of “He who has the gold makes the rules.”