The Schiavo Case vs "The Texas Futile Care Law"
Last Wednesday, March 16, 2005, six-month-old Sun Hudson died after doctors at Texas Children's Hospital removed his ventilator. Sun was born with an untreatable congenital disease. His condition was terminal, and no amount of treatment could have saved him. Sun was terminally ill, but he was conscious. He was not in a persistent vegetative state like Terri Schiavo. What is remarkable about the case is that Sun was removed from life support by force of a court order, and despite the objections of his mother, who wanted doctors to do all they could to prolong his short life. This is the first time a U.S. judge has allowed a hospital to cut off a child's life support against a parent's wishes.
Also in Texas, the family of 68-year-old Spiro Nikolouzos is fighting a Houston hospital to keep their husband and father alive after a court ordered the removal of life support. The hospital claimed Nikolouzos is brain dead, but a neurologist disagrees, citing good flow of blood to the brain, unassisted breathing, and the presence of EKG pulses. While the exact nature of Nikolouzes's neurological condition may be in question, and while his family claims he has been coming in and out of consciousness, what is not in question is that he is not in a persistent vegetative state like Terri Schiavo.
What these two cases have in common is that they result from the "Texas Futile Care Law" (chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code), which allows doctors and hospitals to remove life support from patients with terminal illnesses and who are unable to pay for extraordinary life support measures on their own. Let me put this another way: this is a law to protect hospitals and insurance companies from paying for the extraordinary care of patients who cannot afford this care on their own. It takes the life-support decisions out of the hands of family members or legal guardians, and puts those life-support decisions in the hands of hospital administrators and insurance companies.
The Texas Futile Care Law was enacted by the Texas legislature in 1999 and signed into law by then-Governor George W. Bush.