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End-of-Life Bills Appear Dead

For the third session in a row, legislation covering end-of-life care in Texas appears, well, dead.

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For the third session in a row, legislation covering end-of-life care in Texas appears, well, dead. 

Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, confirmed this afternoon that none of the standalone "treat to transfer" bills to prevent hospitals from withdrawing treatment for dying patients have a shot. But there are always amendments, he said. 

"As time has passed, more and more families have come forward and told us their horror stories of how they were treated, how their loved ones were treated in this process," Hughes said. "We’re very thankful that most hospitals and most doctors are not abusing the law, but some are. And real people are being affected."

Hughes and some other conservative lawmakers want doctors and hospitals to continue treating terminal patients as long as they or their families want — or until they can find another medical facility that will.

Currently, doctors and hospitals, in conjunction with an ethics panel, can decide that continuing to treat a patient is futile or, in some cases, injurious to the patient. They can give families 10 days to find another placement for the patient, or else discontinue treatment. Hospital data show it costs between $60,000 and $80,000 a year to provide life-sustaining treatment for a patient in a vegetative state. Experts say the average person spends 10 to 15 percent of his or her lifetime health care costs in the final year of life — costs generally covered by private or government insurance, or handled by hospitals as charity cases.

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