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Texas Right to LIfe

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Why does TRTL lie? (UPDATE)

I can’t tell you why, but it’s true: Well below their “Donate Now” banner, Texas Right to Life (TRTL) is shamefully spinning another one of their false stories.
Just as they lied on their website that Chris Dunn was “slain by his doctors,

they now post that a woman, Mrs. Carolyn Jones, had to be “rescued” from hers, “racing” to another facility “in the middle of the night.”

Okay, it’s night in that picture. That and the proper names are the only things they got right.
Mrs. Jones wasn’t “rescued” from the hospital that has been giving her excellent care for over 6 months. Nor were her doctors and nurses “surprised.” that she was able to breathe on her own. After all, they were the ones who weaned her from the ventilator over a month ago.
What was expected was that Mrs. Jones would be transferred out if the hospital where she’s been admitted since November, 2018 to a more appropriate, lower level of nursing care two months ago.
On April 10, Mr. Jones testified to the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee that, thanks to the hospital doctors, his wife now needed the ventilator only “occasionally at night.”

The family were given notice that they needed to transfer Mrs. Jones in March. They’ve had another doctor and three facilities capable of providing the treatments she needs waiting to accept Mrs. Jones.

When the family of a hospitalised patient refuses to allow her to be transferred to a more appropriate treatment facility, the attending doctor has no legal means other than the 166.046 process laid out in the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA). This is the legislation that has been called the “Futile Care Law” in the past, but TRTL likes to call it the” 10 Day Rule,” now, in spite of their rejection of effort after effort, etc., to expand the time frame and increase transparency and assistance. This is the issue that led to the rebuke (.PDF) of TRTL by the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops and gleefully reported by the liberal press in Texas
The Jones family are real people, scared and hurting. Mr. Jones somehow was misled to believe the lie that “food and water” would be removed. I would have thought that at least one of the many, many lawyers at TRTL would have assured him that that is not legal under Texas law.
Instead, the Jones family’s fears – and your compassion – are being used as a means to TRTL’s political – and fundraising – ends.

And now, TRTL – in direct competition with – and with absolutely no mention of – Mrs. Jones’ family’s GoFundMe campaign – has been raising money in Mrs. Jones’ name. They state that the funds will be used for (TRTL) lawyer’s fees in addition to Mrs. Jones’ healthcare needs and that “excess” funds will go to help (TRTL’S) efforts for other patients.

I hope that TRTL’s money will also be used to pay for the very large hospital and doctor’s bills that the Jones family will receive. While there’s a chance that Texas Medicaid will pay for three months of medical bills, retroactively, Medicare doesn’t pay for hospitalizations over 90 days and has a 20% co-insurance (co-pay).

That’s bound to have added up in over 6 months.

We’ll just have to trust that TRTL won’t lie again.

Beverly B Nuckols, MD

Edit, Updated information:

One of the bloggers has told us more about that “rescue.” (Or today’s story, anyway.)

TRTL put her in a private ambulance and took her to *another ER,* one that couldn’t provide dialysis, so they then transferred her somewhere else.

There were comments about the first Hospital refusing transfer — no, refusing to be complicit with “dumping” a patient. Discharging to without ( or even with) acceptance of the transfer from the docs at the other facility is highly irregular and likely illegal.
Much has been said about funding. Yes. It appears that Medicare funding ran out, so no longer paying. 90 days per admission, with an extra 60 days over, under certain conditions.

About that Medicaid funding: I don’t know the limits of the mandatory asset tests, but the yearly income level is $60,000. One way to adapt is to spend money on medical costs.

Medicare makes it difficult to navigate the private pay process. When we had some question, we got informed consent, promise to pay, then performed the service, filed with Medicare, waited to be denied, then tried to Bill the patient. The risk is always a charge of “fraud and abuse.”

The same thing would have happened if the hospital had privately charged for Dialysis.

(5/20/19, BBN)

Have they no decency?

Now, Texas Right to Life is blatantly lying, posting an article on their website entitled “American hero slain two days before Christmas …”

“slain?”

Far down in the piece, there’s this:

“Chris passed away naturally on December 23, 2015 – two days before Christmas.”

Mr. Dunn died from his metastatic pancreas cancer, on full medical treatments. His mother, Mrs. Kelly actually thanked those who cared for him at the hospital.

Every article on TRTL’s website has a “Donate” button at the top, prioritizing money over the people whose stories they use to raise money and influence the Texas Legislature. Now, we see this completely dishonest caption.

Just what is their mission and how can we trust them?

Hurting patients and families

Facing the life-threatening illness of a loved one is hard enough, without misunderstandings. It’s cruel when people who claim to be helping don’t correct those misunderstandings.
I can’t comment on on Texas Right to Life’s (TRTL’s) recent Facebook post, where the organization is, frankly, spreading falsehoods and perpetuating misunderstandings that are bound to make a difficult process even harder.
The story about the family of Mrs. Carolyn Jones is one I’ve covered before.
I believe that the Jones family could be – should be – reassured about the care and treatment that Mrs Jones is receiving. In my post, today, I would like to further clear up some of the problems in TRTL’s reporting.
Significantly, on April 10, 2019, Mr. Jones testified to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee ( at 52 minutes into the video, near the end) that, on March 8 of this year, after 4 months’ admission, the hospital held what he says was the second ethics committee meeting. After the meeting, the family believes that the hospital informed them that Mrs. Jones needed to be transferred by March 18, or her oxygen, food and water, and dialysis would be stopped.
Why hasn’t anyone told Mr. Jones that withholding or withdrawal of even IV Artificial Administered Hydration and Nutrition (AAHN) is prohibited by the very law he believes should be repealed?
Mr. Jones testified that over the last month, his wife has since been weaned from the ventilator, only needing assistance “sometimes at night.”

I don’t understand why TRTL repeats that a ventilator tube prevents Mrs. Jones from speaking or eating. Mrs. Jones has a tracheostomy in place (the tube we see in the pictures is a feeding tube). The tracheostomy, even when a ventilator is attached, would not interfere with her ability to speak and swallow, with training.

Breathing assistance, AAHN, and dialysis can all be provided by the 3 facilities – and at least one doctor – that have agreed to accept Mrs. Jones as a patient.
TRTL is using the grief of the Jones family to solicit donations and to lobby for a Bill I’ve also written about, SB 2089, that would require “treatment until transfer.”
In this case, the treatment that is disputed is transfer from in-hospital treatment after 5 months to a lower level facility that is able and willing to provide what Mrs. Jones needs.
Comments are closed here. (I just can’t keep up with all the sites.) Please comment on my Facebook page.

Another kind of lawyer joke

“[T]he doctor/bioethics committee thinks the patient should die.” Wesley J. Smith, Esq., Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee, 4/10/2019 LifeNews.com

Wesley Smith is a rarity among the many lawyers who chased bioethics to the bedside late in the last century: he actually believes in the sanctity of human life and in the right of conscience. I’ve attended and reported on his debates and encounters with proponents of intentional euthanasia. And even happily defended him.

Unfortunately, Lawyer Smith was not above spinning the truth this month when he came from California to once again misrepresent the Texas Advance Directive Act (“TADA,” “the Act,” or “166.___”), an attempt to balance conflicting rights when doctors disagree with a patient or his surrogates about actual medical procedures and treatments that the doctor believes harms the patient.

On April 10, 2019 Mr. Smith gave invited testimony to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in favor of SB 2089 (Hughes) and
SB 2129 (Creighton). LifeNews.com published part of his testimony online, under the title, “Texas Rule Allows Hospitals to Essentially Euthananize Patients After a 10-Day Notification.”

Mr. Smith doesn’t just contradict multiple Supreme Court rulings since Cruzan (1990) affirming that withholding or withdrawing treatment is not equivalent to euthanasia. Paradoxically, he echoes arguments that anti-conscience activists use to justify abortion on demand, Physician Assisted Suicide and intentional euthanasia by a third party by claiming that the principle of autonomy supercedes “First, do no harm,” or non-malevelence, and the right to conscience.

(You can watch all of Part I and Part II of the April 10, 2019 Health and Human Services Committee meeting addressing SB 2089 by Senator Bryan Hughes and SB 2129 by Senator Brandon Creighton online. Part I includes Mr. Smith’s testimony beginning at 33:00/1:01:10.)

We’ll skip Mr. Smith’s assertion that there is a right to force others to provide everyone medical care in general, not just in emergencies or at the end of life. I’ve covered these assertions and his attacks on the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops I’m, back in 2007.

Today, let’s just look at his spin on the current version of TADA.

Lawyer Smith uses emotionally weighted terms that aren’t in TADA, such as, “life-extending,” “futile care,” “permitting the institution to force its will on patients and families,” “invidious discrimination,” and “inappropriate care.” He contrasts patient’s “rights” with doctor’s “values,” and is the first that day to raise the specter of doctors willing to kill when patients are “expensive.” And, reflected in the LifeNews.com headline, Mr. Smith flatly says that TADA allows euthanasia – intentional acts to kill patients – equivalent to the administration of injections or medications that he wrote about this week.

As I’ve stated so many times in past WingRight.org and LifeEthics.org posts, TADA doesn’t allow us to remove or withhold care for patients, only treatments that are “medically inappropriate.” There are no futile patients, only futile treatments that cause harm to the patient over and over, without any expectation of reversing organ failure after organ failure.

Mr. Smith also ignores the multiple attempts by the medical and pro-life community and Legislature to improve the law’s timeframe and communication, much as Senator Creighton’s Bill. One example from 2007, SB 439 by Senator Bob Deuell, would have required written notice and an offer of a private ethics consult to take place at least seven days before the hospital committee meeting. That Bill had a schedule for giving the patient or surrogates written information about the dispute process, copies of medical records, and lists of resources. The family would have been given access to the committee meeting, with their own advocates. When the committee agreed that the treatment requested was inappropriate, the family would have receive assistance in searching for7⅞ another doctor or facility for at least another 21 days. I believe that the Bill bogged down in the House because of opposition from Texas Right to Life to any Bill that did not include liability for doctors and the indefinite “treatment until transfer” in this year’s SB 2089.

In the last five minutes of the Part I video, another lawyer, Texas Right to Life General Council Emily Cook, gave us the best clue about the ultimate goal of her organization: “judicial review.

Ms. Cook and Mr. Smith would have every one of these disputes settled by a Court. This is the Texas trial lawyers’ dream: a huge weapon against our State’s tort reform.

Today, the law specifically allows an appeal to a County probate judge when the Committee agrees with the doctor’s decision. SB 2129 allows a request for an injunction in any Court in the County, enabling “judge shopping.” Since it also prohibits the County from charging the patient or his surrogates any fees, the costs would fall solely on the County.

Ultimately, SB 2129 would make it much, much easier to sue the doctor and the hospital, moving Medical decision-making into the courtroom.

Most of the “stakeholders” for patient rights in Texas (including Texas Alliance for Life, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, Coalition of Texans With Disabilities, Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, Catholic Hospital Association, Texas Nurses Association, and the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops and many others) oppose both of the Bills that Mr. Smith favored. Since SB 2129 would mandate that the County pick up any Court costs and that the judge make his ruling within five days, don’t be surprised if we hear objections from representatives of these parties, too.

So what’s the “joke?”

It could be the ridiculous notion that Lawyer Smith is a mind reader, able to discern the “invidious” motives for the “discrimination” he feels doctors and hospitals routinely practice:

“To fully comprehend the unjust nature of Texas law in this regard, realize that these “futile care” or “inappropriate care” decisions do not terminate treatment because it won’t work, but because it does. It is keeping the patient alive when the doctor/bioethics committee thinks the patient should die.” (Emphasis from LifeNews.com’s transcript.)

He repeatedly comments that physician’s decisions about medically appropriate treatment are subjective and that they (we) might “project their fears and their desires onto the patient” based on our “values,” rather than medical judgement based on repeated, at least once a day examination of the patient, reports by the nurses and staff and our education and experience.

The joke might be that Lawyer Smith volunteered that the indefinite, repeated evaluation and medical decision-making against the medical judgement of doctors would not be “slavery.” I would like to know what Lawyer Smith calls the legal requirement to use one’s body and brain to carry out actions, including writing orders for nurses and other medical staff, against your will.

It might be tragically funny to watch “judicial review” end up with the two sides hiring expert witnesses – doctors – to give the judge opposing views. There’s dark humor in the realization that ultimately the judge would order the original doctor to use her medical judgement to provide treatment – against her best medical judgement.

But the real joke is that “judicial review” risks the unintended consequence of decisions made by judges like the late t Judge George Greer, who Mr. Smith wrote about in this article.

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Death Politics

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

Lawyers, politics, and end of life

      Two days before Christmas, 46 year old Chris Dunn died in the ICU at Houston’s Methodist Hospital. Almost everything you’ve read and heard is a deliberate, political skewing of the facts.

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.  Abatement agreed Dec 4 2015 ( 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.

Lies, Damned Lies and “ScoreCards”

It takes a long time to write the hard posts, so I’ve been putting this one off for a while. But with Primary season off and running, conservative groups are turning on conservative legislators and using political “score cards” to attack.

Let’s start with the most manipulated “scorecard” of all, especially now that someone else has stepped up to explain so much better than I ever could.

Texas Right to Life, the organization which was criticized by the Texas Catholic Conference for their “misstatements and fabrications” concerning HB303 and HB 1444, continues to make up whatever they wish, this time with their arbitrary  “Legislative Scores.” Their scorecard is so “Unconventional” and “perplexing” that it prompted the following letter, signed by all the Texas Catholic Bishops:

December 9, 2013

The Honorable Dan Huberty Texas House of Representatives P.O. Box 2910 Austin, Texas 78768

Dear Representative Huberty:

I am writing at the behest of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas to share their concerns about a recent “pro-life scorecard” released by Texas Right to Life (TRTL). This “scorecard” purports to declare which Texas legislators are “pro-life” based on a selective number of votes during the 83rd Legislative Session.

Unfortunately, the unconventional methodology and subjective scoring of the TRTL scorecard produced a number of perplexing results–including assigning low scores to pro-life lawmakers who have worked long and hard to protect and preserve life.

As you know, the Texas Catholic Conference does not use scorecards. Instead, our bishops encourage parishioners to fully form their consciences through prayer and education about issues. Scorecards are a poor substitute for that level of thoughtful policy engagement. Perhaps the most faulty implication of the scorecard is that, in its current form, it casts the tradition of Catholic teaching as being insufficiently pro-life–which is a patently absurd notion. TRTL does not have license to publicly define who is sufficiently pro-life or not.

Some legislative scorecards, when created objectively and appropriately, can be informative. If not, they stop being about informing the public and become more about advancing political agendas, with the unfortunate result that some citizens end up being misled about the issues and misinformed about the voting records of their legislators.

The recent TRTL scorecard selected only three bills (and assorted amendments) to calculate the scores out of the thousands of bills considered during the 83 rd Legislative Session. Several pro-life bills were excluded from consideration. For example, the TRTL scorecard did not include or minimized support for bills that would have prohibited abortion coverage from insurance plans provided in the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges (HB 997); prohibited sex selection abortions (HB 309); strengthened parental rights to reduce judicial bypass for teen abortions (HB 3243); or criminalized coerced abortions (HB 3247). All these proposals were unquestionably pro-life, yet were not scored equitably on the TRTL scorecard.

As a result of this selective vote counting, several legislators, who have spent their careerscommitted to pro-life issues, were said to “reject opportunities to protect the sanctity of innocent human life” when that is clearly not the case. For example, Senator Bob Deuell was responsible for requiring abortion facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers (SB 537)—a key provision of the landmark prolife legislation that ultimately passed during the Special Session. However, the TRTL political action committee gave him no credit for authoring this pro-life bill. In another instance, State Rep. Bill Callegari was given no credit for his authorship of the parental rights bill (HB 3243).

The method by which the scores were assigned was haphazard and confusing. Some legislators were awarded more points than others for the same legislative action, while other legislators’ contributions were completely ignored. For example, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg and Rep. John Smithee both authored pro-life bills during the session, but Laubenberg was awarded 25 points for authorship of HB 2, while, Smithee was awarded only six points for authoring another pro-life bill that sought to remove abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges. In another example, Rep. Tracey King, who voted against both pro-life omnibus bills (HB 2 and SB 5) received a higher pro-life score than Rep. J. D. Sheffield, who voted FOR both HB 2 and SB 5.

Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. was not scored as pro-life, despite his co-sponsoring and voting for HB 2 and SB 5 and twice crossing party lines to be the final necessary vote to suspend Senate rules and debate on these bills.

What was most troubling to the Texas Catholic Bishops was that the scorecard appears to attack those legislators who supported perhaps one of the most pro-life bills during the 83rd session: protecting individuals and families at the end of life by reforming the Texas Advance Directives Act. Advance directives reform not only would have given families more tools to protect their loved ones at the end of life, but would have provided conscience protections to medical providers to refuse inflicting burdensome and unnecessary procedures on patients. The advance directives law would have changed current law to:

 prohibit the involuntary denial of care to critically ill patients, including food and water;

 prevent doctors from making unilateral “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation” orders without consulting families; and,

 require treating all patients “equally without regard to permanent physical or mental disabilities, age, gender, ethnic background, or financial or insurance status.”

The advance directives reform bill was a moral and compassionate approach to end-of-life care that was opposed by TRTL, but supported by a broad coalition of groups, including the Texas Catholic Conference, the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, the Texas Alliance for Life, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, the AARP, the Texas Pro-Life Action Team, the Texas Conservative Coalition, and the Catholic Hospital Association of Texas. Advance directives reform was important to the Catholic Church–and to many legislators–because we recognize human life as a gift from God that is innately sacred–from conception to natural death. We have taken this position after much reflection to ensure that the law respects the natural dying process.

The implication to be drawn from this scorecard is that TRTL opposed the advance directives reform bill, and appears to have taken to punishing those pro-life legislators who disagreed with them by inaccurately casting them as not being sufficiently pro-life. That is plainly inaccurate.

In the case of the advance directives reform bill, legislators who supported the law were strongly pro-life; they merely opposed the TRTL’s position. These are not necessarily the same thing. It is unfortunate that so many members who continue to fully stand for life are being attacked for doing just that. We hope that this letter has clarified what would otherwise have remained an unfair and confusing characterization.

Sincerely,

Jeffery R. Patterson Executive Director

RX: Sack cloth and ashes for #SB303 opponents

Searching the news for stories on #SB303, led me to accusations that supporters of the Bill gossiped with Capitol staff and “maligned Texas Right to Life, stooping so low as to criticize our sartorial manners, footwear selections . . . “

When you stop laughing enough to read further, notice that the premise of the article, after turning private gossip into public gossip, is that elaborate conspiracies hidden within the minds of doctors, nurses, and entire staffs of “hospitals” and “facilities” judge the “futility of the patient’s life.”

“We agree that some treatments do stop achieving the intended goal of that specific treatment, such as dialysis no longer filtering uric acid from the blood.  When a treatment or therapy is in fact medically futile, no physician would ever continue that, and a properly informed patient or his surrogate would not want to continue futile or harmful treatment, and nothing in current law or in any of Texas Right to Life’s past or present proposals would require the continuation of such medically futile treatment.  Physicians would not continue medically futile treatment anyway.”

“Conflicts arise when the futility judgments are transferred from the efficacy of a medical treatment to a value judgment on the futility of the patient’s life.”

Isn’t the entire conversation about whether the doctor determines the “efficacy of a medical treatment?” No,thanks to articles like this one, the debate on medical conscience is all about pretending to read minds and gossip about the motives of doctors, hospitals, bald-faced claims that the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops is only interested in the “$$$” from Catholic hospital systems. Every discussion I’ve attempted with the opponents of reform devolves into accusations that I “want to kill” patients.

In the grim tale told by TRTL,the physician’s conscience and medical judgment isn’t denied or even trivialized as equal to a lobbyist’s choice of suits or shoes. We, the doctors who are currently the only ones licensed by the State of Texas to write orders and administer treatments, are either ignored altogether or treated as a tool for some mythological eugenic “hospital committees that have decided by their own subjective standards that the lives of these patients have little or no value and should therefore be denied medical treatment.” They object that the physician’s finding that, in his or her  “reasonable medical judgment, resuscitation would be medically ineffective” is not defined in the law and accuse us of deciding “that imminent death is better than resuscitative efforts.”

Frankly, I have no idea what that last means, since resuscitation is only needed in the event of imminent or actual natural death, when the heart or breathing stop functioning.  Based on this statement and the note about failure of dialysis, I’m certain that no doctors were consulted by or gave feedback to the authors. Again, the lack of physicians who oppose SB 303 is not an indication that we are all involved in a conspiracy. Instead, it is proof of our medical judgment – and consciences.

The end sought by the opponents of SB303 is “treatment-pending-transfer,” including “resuscitative efforts” prescribed by law, not doctors, on every patient who has not specifically refused in advance. When the doctor’s medical judgement and conscience lead him to determine that such would be medically futile, they demand that the doctor set aside conscience and medical judgment and do exactly what they say no doctor would do.

Complete autonomy on the part of patients and their families awarded by legislation the ability to demand what they want, when they want, as long as they want and with as much legal liability as possible cannot turn around the failure of organ system after organ system, and physiological cascade after cascade. All of which we doctors can measure and predict with good certainty.

The authors of this article are proud of their “successful” campaign to ensure for at least two more years, that patients and their surrogates

  • don’t have the right to be notified of DNR’s placed on their charts,
  • have no protection against the removal of artificial nutrition and hydration,
  • don’t have the right to medical records before the medical ethics committee meets,
  • don’t have the right to be accompanied in the medical committee meeting, and
  • don’t have an additional 7 days to prepare for the medical ethics committee and an additional 14 days to find another doctor willing to accept responsibility for the medical treatment of the patient.

If there is any clothing I’d suggest that the authors wear, it’s the sackcloth and ashes of the repentant sinner.

Texas Catholic Bishops Conference Rebukes “Texas Right to Life”

Using words such as “egregious,” “cynical,” “outrageous,” and “deceive,” the Texas Catholic Bishops Conference have published the letter that they sent to Texas Legislators concerning the actions of Texas Right to Life concerning Senate Bill 303 and its companion, House Bill 1444 on April 15, 2013.

Since employees and representatives of TRL continue to “stoke fear through ridiculous claims,” (and to harass those who support the Bills)  here’s the letter (I’ve reproduced the emphasis is in the original):

The Texas Catholic Conference is compelled to publicly correct the misstatements and fabrications that continue to be perpetuated by the Texas Right to Life organization against legislation to improve end-of-life care by reforming the Texas Advance Directives Act.

It has been said that all is fair in love, war and Texas politics. However, the actions of Texas Right to Life have been so egregious and cynical, especially when comes to misrepresenting the moral and theological doctrine of the Catholic Church, that the TCC cannot stay silent.

Texas’ Advance Directives Act needs reform. Current law lacks clarity given the complexity of end-of-life care, contains definitions that could permit the withdrawal of care for patients – including food and water – and permits unilateral Do Not Resuscitate Orders without the permission of, or even consultation with, the family.

Senate Bill 303 and House Bill 1444 are based on Catholic moral principles and reasonable medical standards for defending human life and protecting the conscience of both families and physicians. Both billsprevent unilateral DNRs, improve communication between medical providers and families, ensure a clear and balanced process for resolving differences, and give families the right to challenge Do Not Resuscitate Orders before a medical ethics committee.

In both its materials and communications with legislative offices and staff, Texas Right to Life has tried to stoke fear through ridiculous claims of nonexistent “death panels” and assertions that doctors are “secretly trying to kill patients.” Both claims are absurd. The truth is, many factors are involved in the sausage-grinding process of public policymaking. Some have less to do with making good laws and more about individual personalities and fundraising opportunities of organizations.

It is outrageous that an organization purportedly committed to the rights and dignity of life would resort to such disingenuous tactics that deceive honest and caring people. What is worse is doing so in a way that perpetuates current law and may cause unnecessary patient suffering.

Texas Right to Life has no authority to articulate Catholic moral teaching, and certainly does not have permission to represent the views of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at the Texas Catholic Conference. We are more than happy to answer any questions or provide the Texas Catholic Bishops’ position on any issue before the Legislature.

 

(Edited for spelling and grammar, 4/25/13 BBN)

Rick Perry Becomes Latest Pro-Life Republican 2012 Hopeful | LifeNews.com

Pro-life groups around Texas all confirm the strong pro-life record of Governor Perry. Read the article for the examples of his actions in the name of protecting innocent life at all stages and ages.

The long record of pro-life accomplishments will serve the Texas governor well should he decide to seek the Republican nomination. He would face off against other candidates who are equally committed to pro-life values, but his pro-life track record will give him a chance to gain positive support from voters in places like Iowa and South Carolina. Should he ultimately become the nominee, Perry, like other Republicans seeking the nomination, would present a clear pro-life versus pro-abortion contrast with Obama that would rally the majority of Americans who are pro-life to his side.

via Rick Perry Becomes Latest Pro-Life Republican 2012 Hopeful | LifeNews.com.

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