Zach McDaniel was a 12-year-old boy, when he was shot in the head. Immediately taken to a hospital in Abilene, TX. Later Zach was transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth on a ventilator.
Upon transfer, Cook Children’s staff claimed that Zach’s prognosis was poor, as part of his brain had been removed during surgery.
They pressured Zach’s parents to sign an organ donation consent form.
One week later, the hospital convened an Ethics Committee, an entity under Texas law that has the power to terminate a patient’s care after 10 days. It was the committee’s opinion that any further care for Zach would be futile, and moved to terminate care. Zach’s parents pleaded for the hospital to give him time to recover. But because of procedural mistakes, the committee did not technically convene, and their ruling didn’t stand.
Zach’s mother, Jessica discovered the doctors had placed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) in Zach’s file. Frantic she called Right to Life of Texas for help. When Zach’s mother confronted the doctor, he said he did not want to treat her son anymore and she needed to find a place for him.
Jessica moved her son to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
Doctors at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, slowly weaned him off the sedatives and he is now awake, talking and receiving physical therapy.
In Texas, The Advance Directives Act, allowed a physician to place a “potentially” life-ending DNR in Zach’s chart without the parents consent or notice.
This is how the Texas law, seen as a model by many futilitarians, works: Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, if the physician disagrees with a patient’s decision to receive treatment, he or she can take it to the hospital bioethics committee. A hearing is convened at which all interested parties explain why they want or don’t want treatment to continue.
If the committee decides to refuse treatment, it is determinative. Even if the family finds another doctor willing to provide the treatment, it can’t be done in that hospital. At that point, the patient/family has a mere ten days to find another hospital willing to take the patient, after which, according to the statute, “the physician and health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment.”
In practical terms, that’s a death sentence. Medical futility care is a value judgement. Medical futility is based on hospitals and doctors being able to decide who they will treat. Trust me quality of life vs life is a judgement.
In Zach McDaniel’s case, he was sent to another hospital, weaned off sedatives and is alive and well.
Take a few minutes and google or call your local hospital if they have a “futile care policy or protocol”.
Here is the University of Michigan Hospital’s policy on Medical Futility, formed in 2009.
If you can find your state or hospitals futile care policy, please leave it in the comments below.
You have a right to know before entering any hospital.