An Actual Death Panel in Texas

Saving Christopher Dunn

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Remember when those who worried about "death panels" were mocked? Well, it's no joking matter now.

Imagine you're the mom or dad of a 46-year-old former sheriff's deputy who's been in the hospital for two months after a non-cancerous mass was found on his pancreas. Imagine further that your son is on a ventilator but can still interact with you and make his wishes known via movements of his hands or head. Imagine that in these interactions your son has clearly said he wants to live. Then consider your son had no health insurance when he went to the hospital, and now, a hospital "ethics committee" has decided it's time to pull the plug, because further treatment is not "in the best interest of the patient."

Unfortunately, this is not a bad dream for Evelyn Kelly, who's fighting desperately to save the life of her son, Christopher Dunn.

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Dunn is at Houston Methodist Hospital. Under the Texas Advanced Directives Act, Houston Methodist has decided to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. His mother is taking the hospital to court, saying the law is unconstitutional.

"They want to kill my son," Mrs. Kelly says. "They say there is nothing else they can do for him, but I don't believe that. When they found out that Chris did not have insurance, they said they were done."

The Act, which was signed into law in 1999 by then-Governor George W. Bush, allows hospitals to withdraw life-sustaining treatments if an ethics committee agrees that further treatment is futile. Their only responsibility to the family is a written ten-day notice.

The ethics committee for Houston Methodist gave its imprimatur earlier this fall, and the hospital defended itself by saying, "Houston Methodist is a faith-based, values-centered organization that strives to make the best choices for all our patients. End-of-life decisions are never easy, but Texas law is clear about our hospital's responsibility in these cases."

It's hard to see how euthanizing Christopher Dunn is the best choice for Christopher Dunn!

In fact, in a video distributed by Texas Right to Life, Christopher Dunn clearly indicates he wants to live. The organization is also circulating an online petition that in part says, "We demand that this secret and unaccountable decision-making by a bureaucratic committee — obviously motivated by its own financial interest — be reversed immediately so that Christopher Dunn can continue to live." Come to our website to see this video and sign this petition.

And there are others shocked by the hospital's violation of the Hippocratic Oath who have also joined the fight. Prominent disability rights activist Mark Pickup, who is chronically ill with degenerative multiple sclerosis, is asking Texas Governor Greg Abbott to intervene so Christopher can be placed in another facility.

As Pickup notes, "The Governor can commute death sentences of murderers on death row. Surely he must be able to commute the death sentence imposed on a helpless man by the terrible Texas Advanced Directives Act!"

Well, you'd think so.

But we must ask ourselves, how did it even come to this point, where people have to appeal to governors and so-called "hospital ethics committees" to keep hospitals from killing their patients? You know, Chuck Colson saw all this coming. He knew that turning over healthcare choices to the government would mean a bureaucratic panel — potentially more interested in cutting costs than saving lives — would be given the power over life and death.

As Chuck once said, "the only medical choices I'm interested in are the ones I make in consultation with my doctor and my family. Not with a government commissioner with tight budgets.'"

While U. S. citizens differ on the best way forward on providing healthcare for the nation, the fact is we should all agree that a hospital forcing a patient in its care to die is very, very wrong. Please come to our website for details on how to stand for Christopher Dunn's life, and against a kind of death panel that, if unchecked, threatens all of us. And please, do it today.

This article was originally posted here.

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship

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