Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Problem with the Texas Futile Care Statute

It is my position that there are many problems with the Texas Futile Care Statute. I discuss one of those problems in this post.

In Texas, if an attending physician of a patient in a health care facility decides that continuing life-sustaining treatment is inappropriate, the law provides a procedure before the facility can withdraw the treatment.

Hospital administrations will tell you that decisions to withdraw life-sustaining treatment are those of the doctors, rather than the hospitals. However, the Futile Care Statute does not make that distinction in any meaningful way. In fact, the procedure that is outlined requires a decision by an ethics committee. If the ethics committee decides that the attending physician is correct in his or her decision to withdraw treatment, the law says the following,

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;
(3) another facility.

Note the lack of an "or" after number one. The law, therefore, is not clear as to whether it requires that the facility help the patient to attempt to find another physician with privileges at that facility to treat patient. In other words, the transfer is all about transfering physical locations rather than physicians.

It seems to me that the law should clearly require that a facility help in the search for physicians who can treat the patient within the same facilty.

To be continued...