State Rep. Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound) and State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) have filed legislation that would prevent hospitals from “pulling the plug” on patients against their will.

Senate Bill 917 and House Bill 2609 would end Texas’ 10-day rule, a countdown for patients to find another health facility if their hospital decides to stop providing life-sustaining care to them.

The current law that establishes the 10-day rule states:

If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the ethics or medical committee has affirmed is medically inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer.

What if the patient’s family is unable to find another place that will provide medical care before the countdown ends? The law says the hospital is “not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day,” effectively killing the patient.

While Virginia and California have a similar law, all other 47 states have no time limit on patient transfers.

Texas’ 10-day rule gained national attention during the Tinslee Lewis case, in which Cook Children’s Medical Center in North Texas attempted to unhook the ventilator of an 11-month-old baby with a congenital heart defect.

Her mother fought back, and 323 District Court Judge Alex Kim, out of Tarrant County, issued a Temporary Restraining Order to save Tinslee. A lengthy legal battle followed until the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a lower court’s ruling to stand, ensuring the child continued to receive life-sustaining care.

Texas Right to Life, which provided legal support to Tinslee Lewis’ mother, praised Parker’s and Hughes’ legislation, declaring:

This policy would incentivize hospitals to collaborate with families to transfer their ailing loved one to a more appropriate care facility, rather than hospitals watching the clock while families are forced to frantically accomplish the nearly impossible task of transferring their loved one with minimum cooperation from their physician.

While it may be the most high-profile case, Tinslee Lewis is not the only example of hospitals exercising the 10-day rule. Unfortunately for many Texans, some healthcare facilities have been successful in their attempts to “pull the plug” on patients, enjoying full legal immunity under Texas law. Two years ago, while testifying on a similar bill, a mother shared a heartbreaking story:

I watched the ventilator be removed from my son. The doctors told me that he would not expect to live more than twenty minutes but for over an hour, I watched my son convulse and gasp for air until he died in my arms. He fought for his life for five and a half weeks before the hospital made that fateful decision again without my consent to remove all life-sustaining treatment. So I ask of you to please support this bill to fight for life like that of my 4-year-old son.

Michael Swirsky

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Swirsky is a writing fellow for Texas Scorecard. Interests include speech and debate, chess, and of course Texas politics.