COVID Patient Subjected to the 10-Day Rule Makes a Full Recovery

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The deadly 10-Day Rule threatened to cut his life short in November of 2020, but today Jose has made a full recovery from COVID-19 and is sharing his story to prevent any other Texas patients from repeating his experience.

In September of 2020, 56 year old Jose Cobos-Portillo left his home in Chihuahua, Mexico for Texas on a work visa to pursue the American Dream. But after contracting COVID-19, his experience facing Texas’s deadly 10-Day Rule in an Amarillo hospital turned that dream into a nightmare.

The 10-Day Rule, a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act, permits a hospital ethics committee to authorize the removal of basic life-sustaining treatment, such as a ventilator, dialysis, and blood pressure medications, over the objections of the patient and his family. The 10-Day Rule allows the hospital to override even the explicit instructions in a patient’s valid advance directive to remove basic care that is merely allowing the patient to continue living, often due to unethical value judgments about the patient’s subjective “quality of life.” 

Jose was admitted in early September to Northwest Texas Healthcare in Amarillo to be treated for COVID-19. Less than two months later, when Texas Right to Life first received the call for help from Jose’s family in November, the hospital had already started the 10-day countdown to forcibly remove his ventilator. His family called for help on a Wednesday, and Jose’s ventilator was scheduled to be withdrawn the following Sunday. 

According to Arturo, Jose’s brother, “A doctor started to get arrogant with me, he told me that he wasn’t asking for my permission. He told me that he was going to go to a committee and that they were going to disconnect Jose… The doctor told me that Jose had run out of options and that he only had one week left. So he was going to go to the committee and we would have to disconnect him. One of them claimed that I accepted that they would disconnect him; we never wanted that. It was so difficult for us, we were here in Mexico, and he was alone in the US, hospitalized in Amarillo. There wasn’t anything that we could do and it was so difficult, the whole family was suffering with that uncertainty.”

Jose’s family felt overwhelmed and helpless as their loved one faced a denial of life-sustaining care in a foreign country. Although Arturo, Jose’s brother and medical decision-maker, is a native Spanish speaker and speaks very little English, all notice of the ethics committee process was provided only in English; finding Spanish speakers to interpret proved difficult. And although the hospital had arranged for the family to call in to listen to the ethics committee meeting, there was little to no opportunity for meaningful participation on the part of the family. 

Arturo said: “We were devastated, being in Mexico we couldn’t go to visit, we couldn’t go to look [for a new facility], no one could go to the hospital because as he was in the COVID wing, we couldn’t visit. So what were we to do?” 

Jose’s family using video calls to check on their loved one.

But all was not lost. With help from patient advocates and a Texas Right to Life attorney, Jose and his family fought back to protect his life and succeeded in stopping the countdown– with three days to spare. 

As a legal immigrant from Mexico, Jose faced substantial administrative obstacles to finding an appropriate transfer facility. Immigration paperwork, a language barrier, and insurance red tape all stood in his way. But when the countdown stopped, he and his family were empowered to work with the medical professionals and hospital administration to get the help Jose needed.

Because he received meaningful assistance instead of a 10-day expiration date, Jose has miraculously made a full recovery from his harrowing experience with COVID-19 and is now safe at home with his family in Mexico. 

Had patient advocates and attorneys from Texas Right to Life not stepped in to help Jose’s family, the hospital would have forcibly removed his ventilator and left him to die in November of 2020. 

Today, Jose’s family is celebrating the miracle of his recovery and the gift of more time. Today, he is walking and attends physical therapy twice a week. Today, he only needs oxygen and has been completely weaned off the ventilator. 

Today, he has his life back. 

Jose came to Texas with the hope of working hard and improving his life; instead, our deadly 10-Day Rule nearly cost him his life. 

While patients like Jose are fighting for their lives, the Texas Legislature has been wasting time. Sign the petition today to urge Governor Abbott to add repealing the 10-Day Rule to the upcoming special session agenda. 

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