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Monday, May 13, 2013

The NCBC Supports Texas Bill To Protect Vulnerable Persons From Violations of Informed Consent


The NCBC has been working with the Texas Catholic Conference, the Texas Legislature, and other parties, to ensure the protection of vulnerable persons from violations of informed consent in end-of-life care.

In 1999 the Texas Legislature passed the Texas Advanced Directive Act, which was signed into law.  This law contains controversial provisions which could violate not only the right to informed consent, but the right to life of vulnerable persons, such as those with disabilities and those with dementia.  The legislation is better known as the Texas Futility Care Law.  This law allows health care facilities to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment ten days after giving written notice to the patient or surrogate decision-maker that the facility considers the treatment futile care.
In recent years the Texas Catholic Conference has worked dilligently and collaborated with the NCBC and their Director of Bioethics and Public Policy, Dr. Marie Hilliard, as well as the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (of which Dr. Marie Hilliard is a Board Member) to address the ethical problems in the existing statute, as well as to provide protections in the use of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders.  

These efforts have resulted in a legislative proposal this session:  S.B. 303: An Act Relating to Advance Directives and Health Care and Treatment Decisions. 

The policy improvements being proposed in S.B. 303 provide significant protections to patients and their families, reflective of incremental legislation.  Incremental legislation is morally licit because, while imperfect,  it significantly improves existing morally problematic law.  Such an approach represents the most that the proponents may achieve in the legislative session. Incremental legislation was recognized as being moral by Blessed John Paul II in speaking of abortion laws, who cites how one: ”could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.” 
  • [Evangelium Vitae, 1995, par. 73.]
To read more about the NCBC's position on these legislative changes, please read the following letter in support of S.B. 303: 

By Dr. John Haas
President
The National Catholic Bioethics Center

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