SB 2355: Support reform of hospital ethics committees

Testimony given by Jennifer Allmon

The TCCB would like to thank Senator Lucio for filing this bill to require hospitals to adopt and implement policies to prevent financial conflicts of interest and discrimination based on disability.

While we support the basic structure of the Texas Advance Directives Act, over the last several years the bishops have successfully advocated for a variety of reasonable reforms to improve the act, specifically to provide greater balance for patient and provider rights. Unfortunately, these reform efforts have often been misunderstood and mischaracterized.

SB 2355 is a simple reform bill that brings clarity to the process by calling for hospitals to set policies that relate to the ethics committee composition.

To our knowledge, there is no state that calls for specific composition guidelines for ethics committees in dispute resolution cases such as those in this act. For that reason, we believe that this bill marks a reasonable first step toward more transparency in the composition and decision processes of ethics committees operating under Chapter 166.046, without overreaching by setting the actual policies for every hospital in Texas despite differences in local communities.

While it is very rare that this process is used, it is important to ensure that these committees are operating with high ethical standards and Senator Lucio’s bill is a meaningful step for improving this process.

All human life is a gift from God, and is therefore, innately sacred. This respect for life is lifelong – from conception to natural death.

We reject medical decision‐making based on flawed “quality-of-life” arguments which are often used to falsely justify euthanasia. The reforms in this bill that relate to the prevention of discrimination based on disability recognize that decisions regarding treatment should be made through this lens of the inherent sanctity of human life while recognizing that underlying medical conditions can have an impact on the effectiveness or appropriateness of certain medical interventions.

Treatment decisions should be based on whether or not the expected benefit of the treatment outweighs the burden to the patient.  Some claim that this is a quality of life decision, but they are wrong—it is an assessment of the quality or effectiveness of the treatment or intervention, not the quality of life for the patient—and this bill clarifies that.

Senator Lucio’s SB 2355 is designed to assure that people living with disabilities are protected both from withdrawal of necessary life-sustaining treatment and from being forced to endure burdensome, non-beneficial medical interventions. We believe that the approach in SB 2355 is reasonable, implementable, and enforceable.  The Texas Bishops support this bill that improves the composition and practices of ethics committees.