Senate gives early OK to bill regulating do-not-resuscitate orders

The Senate gave early approval to a measure Tuesday night that would require physicians to take certain steps before issuing do-not-resuscitate orders to patients.

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, listens to witness testimony on several bills in Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 5, 2017. 

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

The Senate on Tuesday gave early approval to a bill that would force physicians to take certain steps before issuing do-not-resuscitate orders to patients.

Senate Bill 11, authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, passed the upper chamber in a 21-10 vote. The measure regulates the issuance of do-not-resuscitate orders, directives that instruct medical professionals not to perform certain life-sustaining actions if a patient goes into cardiac or respiratory arrest.

The bill seeks to ensure that a patient or the patient’s legal guardian gives consent before a doctor issues a do-not-resuscitate order. Perry said the intent is "to engage patients' wishes and put families into that discussion and end the silent DNR process.”

At a committee hearing for the bill earlier in the session, opponents – including the Texas Hospital Association – criticized the legislation as too vague, arguing that it would needlessly complicate the DNR process. 

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Though Perry voiced some support for amendments proposed on the floor, he formally opposed every one, saying stakeholder groups wouldn't agree to modifications to the bill at this stage. After state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, commented on Perry's deference to outside groups' input, Perry suggested some changes could be made in the House — and that he had "made a decision to honor the stakeholders." 

The vote on SB 11 came in the midst of a marathon day in the upper chamber that showed no sign of winding down a few hours before midnight. The Senate took up several bills Tuesday, including controversial “bathroom bill” legislation affecting transgender Texans, after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warned lawmakers that it would be “a late night."

The DNR measure needs final approval from the Senate before heading to the House for consideration. (Update, July 26: The bill has officially passed the Senate and will now head to the House.)

Disclosure: The Texas Hospital Association has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.