SB 1944: An Act Relating to End-Of-Life and Hospice Care

SB 1944: An Act Relating to End-Of-Life and Hospice Care

Testimony in opposition to this bill given by

Julie Grimstad, Patient Advocate
President of the Board of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization (HALO)

My name is Julie Grimstad. I have been a patient advocate for over 35 years and currently serve as the President of the Board of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization (HALO). HALO promotes, protects, and advocates for the rights of the medically vulnerable. 

SB 1944 is unjust and deadly for vulnerable patients. Having read this bill in its entirely, I agree with Texas Right to Life that “SB 1944 actually makes the current law even worse, putting hospitalized Texans at greater risk of involuntary passive euthanasia.” Therefore, I oppose it.

There are many reasons to oppose this bill, most of which have been and will be explained today by others who oppose this legislation, but §166.012 is the part of this bill that most concerns me. 

Section 166.012 “does not” (2) “require a health care provider to continue treatment or care considered outside the appropriate scope of care or in violation of the provider’s ethical duties.” Who defines what is the “appropriate scope of care” or the “provider’s ethical duties”? Is there a written hospital policy defining these terms which patients and their decision makers can access, preferably before admission? Most people assume that health care provider’s will do their utmost to protect and preserve their lives unless they assertively refuse treatment. Patients and their families are blindsided when, too late, they find out that they can be denied treatment that is necessary to preserve their lives. At the very least, they should be forewarned! Perhaps Texas hospitals should post signs announcing, “We reserve the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment.”

Section 166.012 also “does not” (3) “prohibit a health care provider or facility from performing any test or diagnostic necessary to determine the patient’s medical condition or related functions.” This infringes on the right of patients/their legal decision makers to give or withhold informed consent to medical procedures. There are risks in most medical procedures. For instance, consider the procedure of the apnea test. Its sole purpose is to determine the patient’s inability to breathe on his own in order to determine “brain death”. The apnea test has no benefit for the comatose patient and aggravates the patient’s condition. The ventilator is turned off for up to 10 minutes, which can cause additional damage to the brain, cardiac arrest, or even induce “brain death”.  

SB 1944 violates the right of patients and their families/medical decision makers to give consent or refuse consent to any medical treatment or diagnostic test and to have such decisions honored. According to the Texas Advance Directives Act at §166.163, “treatment cannot be given to you or stopped over your objection.” SB 1944 would override that assurance to Texans who execute a medical power of attorney.

Therefore, I respectfully ask each Senator on this committee to vote “no” on SB 1994. Thank you.