A Texas mother and pro-life activists are fighting a Houston hospital in court after the facility cited a state law in its decision to refuse treatment for a 46-year-old man, despite the patient’s wishes and those of his family.
Houston Methodist Hospital is standing behind the decision of an administrative panel that ruled it was best to remove life-sustaining care for Chris Dunn, a former sheriff’s deputy who also worked for the Department of Homeland Security. He did not have insurance at the time of his health crisis. The hospital’s decision is final, according to the Texas Advanced Directive Act, which has been on the books since 1999.
Dunn suffers from an apparent non-cancerous mass on his pancreas that impacts the connection of his small intestine to the pancreas. His liver and kidneys are also negatively impacted, increasingly so after eight weeks of this fight between the hospital and Dunn’s mother, Evelyn.
The decision by Houston Methodist triggered a 10-day notice before life-sustaining care was to be removed. The removal has been delayed twice by the courts while the constitutionality of the Texas Advanced Directive Act is challenged.
Nonetheless, the pro-life community is appalled by the hospital’s actions and is acting by calling attention to Dunn’s case and petitioning the hospital to change course.
“At this hospital and hospitals around the state, we see that they have a different philosophy. They’re using this law to cover up that anti-life ethic and actually to make these decisions against the wishes of the patient,” said Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago.
But in addition to denying treatment, Seago said the hospital is also refusing Dunn to get treatment anywhere else.
“The law only gives you 10 days, so if an ethics committee decides they want to take away the treatment, they only give the family 10 days to transfer to another facility,” he explained. “That is extremely difficult because the hospital decided they don’t want to treat the patient anymore. However, you can’t transfer without their help.”
Seago said the hospital’s attitude toward Dunn was exactly the same since he first arrived.
“Chris showed up in the hospital and instead of figuring out what was wrong with him, instead of doing the biopsies and the tests, it looked like he was in pretty bad condition and the hospital began to have conversations with the family that indicated the hospital was ready to give up, that the hospital did not think it was worth fighting,” said Seago, noting that doctors consulted through Texas Right to Life say Dunn’s case is not hopeless.
“There is a long list of things that physicians who are dedicated to keeping Chris alive and healing him could do, a lot of the biopsies that need to be done but even some treatments that some of the medical experts that we went to recommended if he was in a facility that was actually dedicated to keeping him alive,” Seago said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with John Seago:
He said the implied message from the hospital is chilling.
“They said there were a lot of complications in his health, and they didn’t think that his life was going to be worth living by the time he gets to the other side of this medical condition,” Seago said.
According to Breitbart.com, the following is a statement from Houston Medical Hospital:
“We want to express our deepest sympathies and offer our prayers to the family during this difficult time. Out of respect for the family and because of patient privacy laws, we cannot discuss the particulars of the case. We are providing the best possible care to the patient and we continue to care for him. We are working with the courts to get guidance on who has legal guardianship of the patient.
“Within the patient’s family there is disagreement on the appropriate end-of-life care for this patient. We feel strongly that every decision we have made is in the best interest of the patient, and the Houston Methodist staff works hard and compassionately every day to help families who are facing difficult end-of-life issues. Houston Methodist is a faith-based, values-centered organization that strives to make the best choices for all our patients. We will continue assisting the family through this painful process.”
While Dunn’s family succeeded in winning a couple of court-ordered delays against the hospital, Seago said the hospital tried to play some stunning hardball of its own by requesting that Evelyn Dunn be stripped of medical power of attorney for her son.
“The hospital is actually trying to take that right away from her,” he said. “She has the medical power of attorney, and we see that the hospital wants someone else to be the medical guardian and to make medical decisions for Chris. We know that the first medical decision that they’ll make, if they get it, is to withdraw his ventilator, which will occasion his death.
“It’s very disturbing that Houston Methodist Hospital is not just trying to use this unethical law, but they’re actually going above and beyond, to take the decision-making authority out of the hands of Chris’ mother,” Seago said.
He said it’s even more baffling when considering Evelyn Dunn is merely enforcing the decisions Chris himself is making.
“He is capable of making his own medical decisions, but because he has a tube, he can’t verbally say them,” Seago said. “He can indicate with his head. He shakes his head ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ He uses his hands to indicate whether he wants something or not. He is communicative, but because he can’t speak verbally, he has to have a surrogate speak on his behalf.”
In the following video posted by Texas Right to Life titled “Help Chris See Christmas,” Dunn can be seen pleading with attorneys to help him remain alive:
In addition to championing Dunn’s case, Seago said Texas Right to Life is getting ready to fight for a repeal of the Texas Advanced Directive Act.
“This hospital is using a legal process that we have to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, even if the patient and family are asking for it,” Seago said. “At Texas Right to Life, we consider this Texas Advanced Directive Act to be the black spot on our state’s pro-life record.”