Proposed Texas Bill Grants Doctors Authority to Deny CPR to Patients

Austin, Texas — A bill proposed in Texas legislature would grant medical doctors power to decide whether to administer or deny CPR to patients, reports state.

Bill 303 is sponsored by Texas state Senator Bob Deuell, the vice chairman of the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.

“This is about getting a better process in place and having more safeguards so everybody is able to make informed decisions,” Deuell told reporters. “At the same time, we have to address the fact that there are situations where treatment to transfer is just not viable.”

According to reports, the bill would allocate authority to the attending physician to decide whether to issue a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order regardless of the patient’s wishes. One section of the bill, however, makes provision for members of the clergy to decide whether or not to withhold treatment if the patient doesn’t have a legal guardian, and family members can seek a second opinion if they disagree with the doctor.

The National Right to Life Committee has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the legislation.

“Texas S.B. 303 violates the most fundamental tenet of patient autonomy by allowing doctors to strip patients (or their surrogates) of the right to dictate their wishes with regard to CPR,” said Burke Balch of the organization’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics. “We appeal to anyone who cares about patient autonomy or the right to live to shine the light of outraged public opinion on this dangerous bill.”

He analyzed the text of the measure in a four-page outline.

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“Under Section 2 of SB 303 … [w]hile ‘a reasonably diligent effort’ is first to be made to notify a surrogate [of a DNR order], the DNR takes immediate effect even over the protest of a patient or surrogate – and not even notification is required if the patient’s death is ‘imminent,’” Balch wrote. “The most a patient or surrogate who wants the DNR removed can do is pay for ‘a second opinion at the patient’s or surrogate’s expense’ and – only after that ‘opinion has been obtained’ – appeal to the health care facility’s ethics committee.”

He noted that under the legislation, doctors will ‘not civilly or criminally liable or subject to review or disciplinary action’ for issuing a DNR order, and that the ‘section does not create a cause of action or liability against a physician, health professional acting under the direction of a physician, or health care facility.’

Balch said that the legislation, if passed, would place too much discretion into the hands of medical doctors.

“A judgment whether one’s life is worth living with ‘major medical problems’ or while experiencing ‘severe discomfort’ is a very subjective one,” he commented. “While appearing to put constraints on the grounds under which a hospital committee may override the choice of a patient or the patient’s surrogate for life, the bill in fact contains loopholes so broad as to authorize virtually any realistically conceivable denial. It operates not as a shield for patients, but as a sword for medical imperialists who want to impose their own ‘quality of life’ views on their patients – views that impose involuntary death.”

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