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How has Texas law changed for patients on life support?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2024 | Healthcare Business

The Texas Advance Directives Act states that if a hospital or other medical facility determines that continued care for a patient is “futile,” it can elect to stop life-sustaining measures like having them on a respirator. The family then has the opportunity, if they choose, to find another facility that will take their loved one and continue life-sustaining measures. 

If they find one, the facility where the patient is currently being treated is required to take the necessary steps to help ensure that the patient is transferred safely.

Notice of removal extended

Prior to August 2023, facilities were required to give 10 days notice before taking that step. With a new law that took effect last year, that notice was extended to 25 days. 

That timeframe begins when doctors notify the family of their decision to end care. It expires after 25 days, whether alternative care is found or not.

That wasn’t the only change in the law, which lawmakers, patient advocates, right-to-life groups, hospitals and medical ethicists had been discussing for some time, without reaching agreement. 

More family participation and reporting requirements

In addition to the extension of the notice of life support removal, the law lets patients’ families participate in ethics review committee meetings that are held when a doctor recommends ending life support. The new law also requires hospitals to report the patients they withdraw from life support to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Some in the right-to-life community still believe that patients shouldn’t have life-sustaining care ended if no other accommodations can be found. However, Texas law is more specific than that of most other states. Laws around when medical professionals can make that decision and what their obligations to patients and their families make an already difficult situation harder for everyone.

It’s always crucial for health care facilities to have clear regulations and procedures that conform to the current law and to have sound legal guidance when dealing with cases where ending care is recommended.

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