Texas Physicians Fight End-of-Life Bill With Passion
By Jennifer Perkins

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When the Texas Medical Association urged members to ask their state senators to vote “no” on a key bill regarding treatment disputes at the end of life, they didn’t hold back.

“I believe the whole thing is motivated by a lack of faith in physicians and a desire to impose one group's political will on everyone else without their say so,” Mary Elizabeth Paulk, MD, wrote in an email to Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas). “This is just wrong.”

Dr. Paulk wasn’t alone. Hundreds of Texas physicians took up the call, using TMA’s Grassroots Action enter to share very personal and passionate messages with their senators.

The outpouring came in response to a TMA action alert against Senate Bill 2089. That bill would require hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide medically inappropriate and potentially harmful care for an unlimited period of time.

“Deciding how to spend the final days and hours of life is a highly personal decision, and it’s one we encourage our patients to make long before the need arises,” TMA President Doug Curran, MD, wrote in the alert. “Requiring care in perpetuity would prolong the dying process, exacerbate suffering for both patients and loved ones, and violate the standard of care to do no harm.”

When writing their lawmakers, some physicians shared personal stories of their experiences; excerpts of some of those emails are below:

“SB 2089 takes decisionmaking about dying patients out of the hands of ethicists and physicians who have spent their lives dedicated to training and study so that we understand how best to provide care in exactly these kinds of situations. … When I think of the amount of suffering this bill is going to cause for patients, families, hospitals, and our health system as a whole, I am overwhelmed with sadness.”

- Faith Holmes, MD, to Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) 

“In all honesty there isn't going to be another physician who will accept the transfer. So the patient will be on life support indefinitely without the physician in the current hospital being able to withdraw care. In effect, the first physician could not withdraw care, but a second physician will not likely accept, and therefore, the first physician will be legally obligated to continue care for the patient on life support indefinitely.”

- Amber van den Raadt, DO, to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick  

“During my intern year, I had a patient with metastatic breast cancer who was only in her 50s. Unfortunately, her cancer was so aggressive that she had now begun to develop fluid buildup (ascites) due to liver failure and later developed renal failure. Because of this, she also had a tremendous amount of acid build-up in her body. She had a husband and two children, and we went above and beyond extraordinary measures trying to save her life as they continued to want aggressive care. Throughout the final stages of our aggressive treatment, I felt sick to my stomach, because it was obvious our interventions were doing more harm than good, and the patient was clearly suffering.”

- Nitya Kumar, MD, to Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston)

“End-of-life issues are not something that can be legislated in the fashion proposed in SB 2089. These things have to be individualized by patients, families, and their physicians. … It is foolhardy for legislators to presume to know what is correct on an individual basis from a global perspective. Perhaps God can do that but not the Texas Senate. Please keep the state rational and vote against this bill and any others like it that see the light of day.”

- Vik Wall, MD, to Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo)

TMA is vehemently opposed to SB 2089 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), which is currently poised for debate on the Senate floor. TMA continues to encourage you to help stop it from making any further progress.

Please contact your state senator today and ask him or her to oppose SB 2089.

Last Updated On

May 10, 2019

Originally Published On

May 09, 2019