The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

June 30, 2013

New Senate bill resuscitates old law

By Joseph Hamrick
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — A new bill filed in the Texas Senate by State Senator Bob Deuell, is making a stir with patient’s rights supporters.

Senate Bill 303 is a bi-partisan reform of the 14-year-old Advance Directives law, which updates some of the vernacular, and among some of the additions, establishes a review process for patients and families during end of life care.

According to Debby Clack, R.N., M.S. chief nursing officer for Hunt Regional Healthcare, the new bill assists families with the tough decisions with advance directive and Do Not Resussitate (DNR) orders.

“Senate Bill 303 refines the current advance directives law to give families (and others with medical power of attorney responsibilities) additional support in decision making,” she said. “Currently, a patient’s advance directive is the “final word” in determining care, and families have a 10-day limit to challenge decisions made in situations where no advance directive exists. Under the proposed bill, that window would be extended to 21 days and families would have the right to appeal an advance directive in acute situations where they feel the patient’s true wishes would support an appeal.”

While the bill passed nearly unanimously earlier this year with a 26-4 vote in the senate and is currently under the house consideration, some organizations, including the Texas Right to Life, say this is a step backwards for patients’ rights.

The organization has been on a campaign to urge its followers to call their senators to revoke the bill.

The DNR order is one that members of the organization say takes away the patient’s right to life, since the bill allows a doctor to stop treatment on a patient if it is deemed medically futile to continue treatment.

But, according to Clack, the bill would benefit both the patient and the family during time spent in the hospital.

“This bill is a step forward for patient and family rights and a real benefit for hospitals who can be caught in high-stress situations at life’s most difficult moments,” she said.