Robert Painter testifies before Texas House of Representatives


H.B. 3520 would prevent hospitals from using 'death panels' to dump patients

February 10, 2011

Robert Painter testified before the Texas House of Representatives Human Services Committee on April 12, 2011, in support of House Bill 3520. This legislation would amend the Texas 'death panel' statute (Advance Directives Act of 1999).

Under current law, a hospital 'ethics' committee can override the wishes of a patient or family for care to continue, if the committee decides that care is 'medically futile'. The committee can meet with just 48 hours of notice to the patient, and if the committee finds against the patient the hospital only has to wait 10 days before terminating all curative care, nutrition and hydration. Texas is the only state with such a short period; only Virgina even comes close, at 14 days.

This law applies to everyone, regardless of age, insurance status, or medical condition. Imagine the extra grief and stress placed on patients and families: health care providers switch roles and become adversaries, in a process that is intimidating and unfamiliar to the people they took an oath to serve.

House Bill 3520 would require hospitals and doctors to provide treatment until the patient is transferred to another facility that will provide treatment, instead of the short 10-day period.

The current law places no requirement on hospitals to assist patients and families in finding a transfer. The law only requires the attending physician to provide reasonable efforts to assist, which from a practical perspective ofen means no help at all. On the other hand, the amended law would place an incentive on doctors and hospitals to give patients and families the assistance they need to continue to receive health care.

Painter Law Firm clients Mike and Jacqueline Woelfel also testified before the committee about their shocking experience with the 'ethics' committee at Kingwood Medical Center involving the care and treatment of their 24 year old son.

This is the third legislative session in a row during which Robert Painter has testified in favor of amending the Texas death panel law.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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