In the mid-90s some Texas hospitals adopted a protocol inwhich they arrogated to themselves the right to suspend life-sustaining treatment if they—not the patient or his family or even his insurer—decided it was “futile,” leaving futility to be defined by their internal ethics committees. In 1999 Texas passed a law that gave patients ten days to find an alternative health-care facility for the patient once the hospital determined treatment should be ended.
It’s not the first time the Texas bishops have waded in on the wrong side of the debate on life-sustaining medical treatment.
In practice, it has proven to be nearly impossible for most patients in that situation to find a new hospital in that time and thus a new law was proposed removing the ten-day limit and giving patients as much time as needed to find a new facility.
Opposition from hospitals and insurers was predictable, but would you believe that the law is also being opposed by the Texas Catholic Conference? Instead they support an alternative bill that would extend the limit to 21 days and permit hospitals to refuse new treatments during the waiting period.
Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin spoke on behalf of his brother bishops in favor of the alternative bill and in opposition to the original.
We believe, and the tradition of our Church has always taught, that a person should be allowed to die with dignity and have a peaceful death. We believe that that is in conformity to God’s will and that God is the one who chooses life and death. It is the teaching of the Church that we should not interfere with that. We also realize that sometimes families, through no fault of their own, are really not able to make those decisions because of their involvement, because of the emotions.
What emotion might that be? Love, perhaps? So if love is the motivation of the patients’ families, what is the motivation of Texas’ hospitals—among which, by the way, are counted Catholic institutions: Money. (In fact, the article’s author, Wesley J. Smith, suspects he hears the footsteps of the Texas Catholic Health Association behind the promotion of a utilitarian approach called the Futile Care Theory.)
The Texas bishops have walked this road before