Texas doctors protected by law to pull the plug

A Tarrant County judge is declining to extend a restraining order to keep a nine-year-old Grand Prairie girl on life support. Peyton Simmons was rushed to the hospital on September 25th in cardiac arrest and doctors said that she was brain dead after a cancerous tumor cut off her circulation.  Her parents testified at yesterday's hearing that they believe she can recover. The restraining order preventing the hospital from taking her off life support expires next Monday.

The controversial Texas Advance Directives Act, passed in 1999, allows doctors in Texas to stop life-sustaining treatment, after a 10-day waiting period, even over the wishes of the patient’s family.

"It is within the rights of the law to withdraw care, as long as two physicians agree that the patient is brain dead and that there is medical futility," said KTRH’s Dr. Joe Galati.

Doctors in Texas are also protected from being sued civilly or held criminally responsible.

Galati said the doctors and family need to have a discussion of withdrawing care just to sustain a person in a vegetative state with a zero chance of recovery.

"To be in the position where the family has the impression that you are just pulling the plug and killing the patient, that never is going to have a good outcome and you're going to have a situation like this," said Galati.

Galati says it becomes a problem if the doctors don't communicate—ahead of time—is key in making sure the family completely understands the situation.

"Many times, families are insisting on prolonging life support for their own comfort, not thinking about the life and the experience the patient is having right now on life support," said Galati.

Galati, who is also Catholic, said doctors are always thinking of the patient and their suffering versus the family's needs and that he has tremendous respect for life at all stages.

Texas Alliance for Life told KTRH that they, along with the Catholic Bishops, support the dispute resolution process in Texas law, although “we have worked to improve the patient protections in the law”.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the state law unconstitutional in an October 2016 court brief.

One case challenging the statute as unconstitutional is currently pending before a Houston-area appeals court.

EKG monitor

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