SB 2129: Oppose unilateral authority of patients

Testimony given by Jennifer Allmon

The Texas Catholic Bishops have worked on advance directives reform in Texas for decades, supporting legislation that respects autonomy and human dignity, both for patients and providers.

All human life, no matter how disabled or critically ill, is of quality and incomparable worth and no one is less entitled to adequate health care.  Our position equally respects the rights of patients in the natural process of dying and the conscience of health care professionals providing their care. This bill fails to meet that standard.

The bishops are respectful of the perspectives and concerns of patients and their families. However, the criteria in the bill promotes unilateral authority of patients or surrogates to determine medically appropriate treatment. Allowing patients or surrogates to prescribe treatment negates the legal authority of a physician to practice medicine.

The bill fails to recognize the moral and legal difference between actively hastening death through euthanasia and withholding or withdrawing interventions that are no longer beneficial nor appropriate and that exacerbate the medical condition to the point of hastening death.

Requiring physicians to locate and document 10 facilities to make a transfer is unreasonable. This is not a requirement or expectation for any other kind of transfer. Furthermore, the treatment requested may be so rare or complex there are not 10 facilities in the state or even the country available.

Catholic moral and ethical teaching does not support radical autonomy; instead, it holds a balance between personal and professional autonomy and the common good.

Saint John Paul II explicitly warned against views of freedom promoting absolute autonomy as serious distortions of life in society, writing  that this type of promotion of self inevitably leads to rejecting the autonomy of others such that, “[e]veryone is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself.”[1]

This attitude is evident in the analysis that implies medical professionals seek to manipulate families and euthanatize patients. Patient autonomy is not the first principle of medicine – that is to do no harm.

Accepting that a person is dying and withdrawing ineffective and harmful interventions is not euthanasia or suicide. Instead it is recognizing we come from God at the beginning of our existence and return to Him at the end.

Suffering can make life very difficult, but it cannot diminish the inestimable worth of each human life. Still, we need not cling to this life at all costs, since the eternal life to which we have been called in Christ is incomparably better.

[1] Evangelium Vitae, no. 20