View Full Version : Remember Terri Schiavo? Get A Load Of This

04-27-2006, 08:54 AM
Houston Hospital Votes To End Woman's Life With Bush Law
The countdown has begun on the life of Andrea Clark, a patient at St. Luke's Hospital.



Six days left.

No, she's not terminal, her family says and she's not brain dead. Her sisters say that she wants to live. The Houston hospital is going to unilaterally remove a woman from life support, apparently based on the decision of a lone physician even though her family wants her to continue to receive care.

The central issue in the Andrea Clark case is the same as that in the Terri Schindler Schiavo case, whether the state should be able to sanction the removal of a human being from life support.

What's even more significant in the Clark case is that the Texas bill that allows health care providers to end a human life despite the wishes of the patient and the patient's family was signed into law in 1999 by President George W. Bush as Texas Governor. However, in 2005, he rushed back to the White House from Easter vacation to sign a bill rushed through Congress which was designed to save the life of Terri Schiavo because of his "presumption in favor of life".

The hospital's ethics committee has apparently decided they don't want Andrea Clark to receive care anymore, saying its futile, and has recommended that she be removed from life support despite her family's wishes. If her family can't find another hospital to transfer her to by Sunday, April 30, she will be removed from her respirator and dialysis and die.

Andrea Clark, 54, has been a heart patient at the hospital since November. In January, she underwent open heart surgery and in February, she developed bleeding on the brain.

Clark's sisters, Lanore Dixon and Melanie Childers, point out that under a little known Texas law, a self-appointed ethics committee can decide to forcibly remove care from a patient. Once that decision is made, the patient and family have 10 days to find another hospital to provide care for their family member.

But they say the law also requires that the attending physician help with the transfer which they say hasn't been done in Andrea's case. They say that the hospital has unlawfully and unjustly transferred responsibility to them, a denial of due process.

Andrea's sisters are racing to beat the clock but say the hospital is working against them. Although the obscure 1999 Futile Care Law that gave hospitals the authority to remove patients from life support despite the patient's and family wishes says once such a decision is made that the hospital must provide the patient's family with a list of hospitals where the patient could be transferred, St. Luke's hasn't done that. The sisters also claim that the hospital social worker exaggerated the seriousness of Andrea's condition, exaggerating the level of care that is needed in an alleged attempt to discourage other hospitals from admitting her as a patient. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/HS/content/htm/hs.002.00.000166.00.htm

Under Chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, if an attending physician disagrees with a surrogate over a life-and-death treatment decision, there must be an ethics committee consultation (with notice to the surrogate and an opportunity to participate). In a futility case such as Andrea's in which the treatment team is seeking to stop treatment deemed to be non-beneficial, if the ethics committee agrees with the team, the hospital will be authorized to discontinue the disputed treatment (after a 10-day delay, during which the hospital must help try to find a facility that will accept a transfer of the patient). These provisions, which were added to Texas law in 1999, originally applied only to adult patients. In 2003, they were made applicable to disputes over treatment decisions for or on behalf of minors. One of the co-drafters in both 1999 and 2003 was the National Right to Life Committee. Witnesses who testified in support of the bill in 1999 included representatives of National Right to Life, Texas Right to Life, and the Hemlock Society. The bill passed both houses, unanimously, both years, and the 1999 law was signed by then Governor George W. Bush. The statute was designed to keep these cases out of court.

However, it appears on the face that the Futile Care Law is unconstitutional, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in that Andrea's sisters say no fair hearing has been held, no informed second opinion has been obtained by a physician who has examined Andrea.

And no, she's not a Medicaid patient. Her private insurance is funding her health care and hospitalization. However, no one knows what dialogue those insurance officials may have engaged in with hospital officials.

Dixon says the hospital dictate isn't based on a medical decision but that they just say, "well, she's miserable". Dixon says that's a quality of life decision that is up to Andrea and her family.

Family members say that even though their sister can't speak, they know her wish is to live. They say that she can communicate by moving her lips and blinking her eyes.

"If their ethics committee makes a decision, it doesn't matter what the patient wants," Dixon said. "It doesn't even apparently matter what the patient's condition is, because our sister is not in a coma, she's not brain dead," Dixon said.

"She's sick, but she's been sick before and she's proven doctors wrong lots of times," Dixon said.

Dixon said that unless they can find another hospital by April 30, St. Luke's will "pull the plug" on her sister and let her die.

"Andrea, until a few days ago, when the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness, was fully able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until she dies naturally", Childers said. "We have learned that this is part of the process, when hospitals decided to declare the "medical futility" of continuing treatment for a patient.

"Andrea, when she is not medicated into unconsciousness (and even when she is, and the medication has worn off to some degree) is aware and cognizant", her sister said. "She has suffered no brain damage to the parts of her brain responsible for thought and reason or speech. She has only suffered loss of some motor control. The reason that the physician gave to medicate her so much is that she is suffering from intractable pain in the sacral region (in other words, she has a bedsore that causes her pain). This is not reason enough, in our books, and we are trying, as we speak, to get Andrea's medication lowered so that she can speak to us.

"There is also some disagreement as well as to whether Andrea is really in that much pain. When she is not medicated to this degree, and she sees her son, Charles, she smiles. She also mouths words (Andrea is very vocal, normally, even with a trach, and asks for food, etc., when she is not overly medicated) Andrea has voiced her wishes, over and over again, an d if she were not on so much pain medication, she would voice them again", Melanie says.

Houston hospitals have a policy in that once the medical treatment of a patient has been deemed "medically futile" no other hospital in the area will accept transfer of that patient to their facility. This means that the patient, who is usually in a very delicate condition anyway, has to be transported over a long distance, in order to receive care, her sister explains.

When asked if Andrea is capable of being transferred to another facility, the hospital hedges but reluctantly admits that she could be, according to the sisters. Hospital representatives will not discuss the case with media.

"Many, many people, even some medical professionals in Texas, and other areas, don't know about this law", Childers says. "They have no idea that this can be done, and it is being done every day in Texas hospitals, but is not covered by the news media. This needs to become common knowledge and this law needs to be overturned of course, but we are fighting for the life of our sister. We are fighting to see that her wishes about how she lives, and how she dies, are honored. Perhaps these kinds of battles are fought in just this way, one by one, out of love, and this is how the war is won, in the end".

St. Luke's is located at 6720 Bertner Ave., in Houston, Texas. Their phone number is 832-355-1000.

Award winning author Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington, an attorney and consultant for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, notes that "the treatment is apparently being removed because it works, not because it doesn't---which means, in effect that the hospital ethics committee has declared the patient's life to be futile.

Smith says that the proceedings of the ethics committee are closed and that he is unaware of any records kept of the evidence presented at the hearings or the deliberations, thus such a committee can decide to end's a patient's wife anonymously and secretly without the family even being a party to the decision.

"For years I have been warning that bioethicists are getting their ducks in a row to permit them to refuse wanted life sustaining treatment that is removed because it keeps the patient alive, not because it doesn't provide medical benefit. These are value judgments, not medical determinations", Smith says.

"These are life and death decisions and it seems to me that there may be a significant constitutional issue here of immense importance. A law permits private decision-making that will result in death without even the right to a public hearing, to cross examine witnesses, or a formal appeal. Someday, someone is going to attack this statute and its constitutional implementation frontally in federal court. I have already urged some attorneys in private that they do just that. Let us hope that fairness and simple justice prevail".

The North Country Gazette learned late Monday that a lawyer has come forward to try to assist the family in obtaining a temporary injunction against the hospital and to stop the removal of life support from Andrea. Efforts are still be being to locate another hospital to which she can be transferred.

Good Doctor HST
04-27-2006, 09:45 AM
And no, she's not a Medicaid patient. Her private insurance is funding her health care and hospitalization. However, no one knows what dialogue those insurance officials may have engaged in with hospital officials.

"Andrea, until a few days ago, when the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness, was fully able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until she dies naturally", Childers said.

Although I'm not really sure, doesn't it just sound illegal for insurance officials to talk doctors on the matter of life support. Her right to life support would depend on what her "living will" (if she had one) dictated, and her insurance premiums and rates would adjust accordingly. There's conflicting statements on who makes the call when a living will isn't specific on the condition. The decision could be made by the family, husband, or the care providers.... it depends on what state they're in, other intangibles.

She wants life saving treatment until she dies naturally? But if they take her off of the life support, she would die naturally. I mean, the hospital could pretty much keep her alive for hundreds of years if they wanted, with breathing assistance, an artificial heart, and whatever other medical machinery they have available. But would that be right?

04-27-2006, 12:29 PM
The pro-life president who as governor led the nation in executions sided with the HMOs??? Next thing you know that nasty liberal media will be telling me that GW 'thinks'...and i use that term loosely...that Amerikkka can have a limited nuclear war:spank: