Every now and then the "Death Panel" discussion resurfaces when people talk about Health Care Reform.
I wonder if Republicans are perhaps remembering the Texas Futile Care Law in 1999 when they envision what Obama proposed?
Section 166.046, Subsection (e),1 which allows a health care facility to discontinue life-sustaining treatment against the wishes of the patient or guardian ten days after giving written notice if the continuation of life-sustaining treatment is considered medically inappropriate by the treating medical team.
For the hospital personnel to take advantage of legal immunity from prosecution for this the following process must be followed:
- The family must be given written information concerning hospital policy on the ethics consultation process.
- The family must be given 48 hours' notice and be invited to participate in the ethics consultation process. Family members may consult their own medical specialists and legal advisors if they wish.
- The ethics consultation process must provide a written report to the family of the findings of the ethics review process.
- If the ethics consultation process fails to resolve the dispute, the hospital, working with the family, must try to arrange transfer to another provider physician and institution who are willing to give the treatment requested by the family and refused by the current treatment team.
- If after 10 days, no such provider can be found, the hospital and physician may unilaterally withhold or withdraw the therapy that has been determined to be futile.
- The party who disagrees may appeal to the relevant state court and ask the judge to grant an extension of time before treatment is withdrawn. This extension is to be granted only if the judge determines that there is a reasonable likelihood of finding a willing provider of the disputed treatment if more time is granted.
- If either the family does not seek an extension or the judge fails to grant one, futile treatment may be unilaterally withdrawn by the treatment team with immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. 2
The bill was signed into law while George W. Bush was Governor of Texas. Prior to the passage of this law, no protections or "grace period" existed. Critics have compared this law and its effects with Bush's response to Terri Schiavo's situation, in particular his signing of the Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act. 3
Interestingly enough, this law was passed with support of anti-abortion groups (you know, the ones labelled "Pro-Life") in Texas.
So when people want to try to pretend panel consultation on insurance coverage rates is a "Death Panel" -- steer them towards this little piece of conservative legislation to see what a true "Death Panel" looks like.
Or does someone believe I've missed something important here? If so, please let me know...