Human Rights

Texas hospital seeks to remove man from hospital treatment against his will

A 46-year-old Texas man is being forced to fight for his right to life after his hospital invoked a Texas law that allows life-sustaining treatment to be removed at the doctor’s discretion without patient consent, and against his will.

Chris Dunn is currently receiving life-sustaining treatment in the ICU ward of Methodist Hospital in Houston.  Dunn, who has in the past served in various state and federal agencies including his local Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Homeland Security, is now at the mercy of a hostile medical system that has shown a shocking level of callousness towards his desire to live.

Last month, his healthcare providers invoked a draconian Texas law which would allow them to remove Dunn’s treatment based on an arbitrary judgment that continued care would be “futile.”  Thanks to attorneys working pro bono on Chris’s behalf (not all Texans are so lucky), two consecutive temporary restraining orders against the hospital have been secured to bide time for Chris’s lawyers to fight the hospital decision.

Complicating matters is the fact that there is no provision in the law at play — the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), passed in 1999 — for legal recourse to such a decision by the hospital.  Instead, patients and their families are supposed to appeal unfavorable decisions to a board of hospital administrators which wields ultimate power over the patient’s life.  If the panel sides with the physician who ordered withdrawal of treatment, the TADA provides for no further recourse but to submit to that fatal decision.

Chris’s attorney, Joe Nixon, explained to the local ABC affiliate that the statute allows hospitals to hide behind anonymity without fear of any repercussion no matter what decisions they make: “There’s a statute in Texas that allows hospitals to form a nameless, faceless committee and make a decision that they want to terminate life-sustaining care.”

However, Dunn is not brain dead — he is alert when not in medically-induced sedation — and he understands what is being done to him and has personally expressed his desire to live  and continue receiving hospital treatment.  According to Texas Right to Life, the organization which helped Dunn find lawyers and navigate the hospital system after receiving notice that he would be removed from treatment, Dunn was admitted with abdominal pain eight weeks ago.  “[T]he hospital quickly found other ailments plaguing Chris,” they say.  “After the hospital assessed his condition and instead of diagnosing and treating him, doctors made a quality of life decision and deemed him unworthy of their care.”   Watch Dunn’s response, below, when his attorneys ask him if he wants to live:


Dunn’s mother, Evelyn, is acting as his Medical Power of Attorney since he is sometimes sedated.  The hospital is so bent on bringing about Dunn’s demise that they have filed an injunction seeking to be appointed Dunn’s custodial guardian, which would strip Evelyn of her ability to fight on her son’s behalf.

The story is gaining momentum on Twitter, where Dunn’s supporters are spreading the word about his cause with the hash tag #HelpChrisSeeChristmas.

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