Due to the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, people across Texas and the nation are discussing the need to protect life. However, many are unaware of an anti-life law in Texas, referred to as the 10-day rule, until it becomes personal.

Under the Texas Advance Directives Act (Chapter 166.046 of the Texas Health and Safety Code), hospital committees have the authority to decide to stop treatment on a patient for any reason. 

The law, passed in 1999, also applies to patients receiving life-sustaining treatment, even if they are conscious and opting to continue treatment.

Affected patients are given 10 days to arrange an emergency transfer to another hospital or facility that is willing to continue life-sustaining treatment. However, the process is complicated. 

In 2019, 9-month-old Tinslee Lewis, who was born with congenital heart disease, was surviving with the help of a ventilator at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. Before long, the hospital informed Tinslee’s mother they would be removing the life-sustaining ventilator in 10 days.

A North Texas judge issued a restraining order, preventing the hospital from letting the child die. After years of being in the hospital, 3-year-old Tinslee is now home and breathing without the help of a ventilator. 

Carolyn Jones was another patient saved from the clutches of the death panel. The hospital treating Carolyn had activated the 10-day rule and removed her life-sustaining treatment just before Texas Right to Life aided her with a private ambulance to transport her to a facility willing to continue her care. Carolyn spent almost 60 hours without a ventilator, narrowly surviving the traumatic experience. She is now receiving treatment from a long-term acute facility.

Texas Right to Life has been on a mission to urge Texas legislators to enact bills allowing patients (or their guardian) to decide whether they will continue life-sustaining treatment.

In 2019, State Rep. Richard Raymond (D–Laredo) and State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) proposed bills that would revoke hospital committees’ ability to impose a death sentence on a patient who is opting for continued treatment. The proposals would ensure doctors could inform patients or patients’ family members of concerns or disagreements about continuing life-sustaining care.

“These pro-life laws Texas seeks to emulate protect Texans from the possibility of abuse by medical professionals, ultimately creating a system which works more efficiently toward transferring patients to facilities where doctors and patients agree on the provision of life-sustaining treatment,” said Texas Right to Life.

That legislation was ultimately unsuccessful, and later attempts were rebuffed in the 2021 legislative session.

While there are no official numbers, Texas Right to Life says they know of more than a hundred innocent children and adults who have been affected by the 10-day rule.

Texas has made great strides for defending children in the womb, but legislators are failing many adults and children who are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

Emily Wilkerson

Emily is a summer fellow for Texas Scorecard. She is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, studying journalism with a minor in political science. She enjoys investigative journalism and making sure that every side of a story is being told.

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