A patient's family is challenging a Texas hospital's decision to withdraw his life support, saying a state law that allows providers to halt such care is unconstitutional.
On Dec. 3, a state court is scheduled to consider whether to issue an injunction that stops Houston Methodist Hospital from withdrawing life support from David Christopher Dunn, said Dunn's lawyer Trey Trainor. The court already granted a temporary restraining order barring the hospital from ending life-sustaining care.
Dunn, 46, was admitted to the hospital about six weeks ago after coughing up dried blood, said Trainor, a partner at Beirne, Maynard & Parsons. Doctors found an unidentified mass on his pancreas, but doctors aren't sure what's wrong with him, Trainor said. Dunn is now heavily sedated and on a breathing tube, Trainor said.
Dunn's doctor determined that life-sustaining treatment was futile. Dunn's mother, who holds power of attorney, is fighting that decision. Under Texas law, if an attending physician refuses to honor a patient's requests for care or an advance directive, that decision then goes before an ethics or medical committee. If the committee agrees with the doctor's decision—as it did in Dunn's case—the patient has 10 days to transfer to a different facility before the hospital may cease treatment.
The hospital said in a statement that it can't discuss details of the case out of respect for the family and because of patient privacy laws. It did agree to the temporary restraining order and said that it “will continue assisting the family through this painful process.”
“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,” the hospital said.