Houston Matters

The Ethical and Legal Dilemmas of Keeping Someone on Life Support

Back in October, 46 year old Chris Dunn fell ill. He was admitted to a hospital in Pasadena. When a scan revealed a mass on his pancreas, he was transferred to Houston Methodist. Dunn never left that hospital; he was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease and pancreatic cancer. By mid-November, his doctors determined there was nothing […]

Back in October, 46 year old Chris Dunn fell ill. He was admitted to a hospital in Pasadena. When a scan revealed a mass on his pancreas, he was transferred to Houston Methodist. Dunn never left that hospital; he was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease and pancreatic cancer. By mid-November, his doctors determined there was nothing more they could do to help him. Citing procedures spelled out in a 1999 state law — the Texas Advance Directives Act — the hospital planned to discontinue any life-sustaining treatment in ten days.

Some members of Dunn’s family took the hospital to court; the hospital, in turn, petitioned the court for guardianship over Dunn. A judge required the doctors continue life-sustaining treatment until that petition could be heard. Dunn passed away before the dispute could be resolved.

This case has renewed debate over the ethical and legal implications of sustaining or removing life support. We learn more about the Texas Advance Directives Act and hear from a proponent and an opponent of the law, and we discuss how medical power of attorney works, and what rights it does and does not guarantee in the state of Texas.

Share