In March of 2018, a 21-year-old man, Berman DePaz-Martinez, was life-flighted to John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS) in Fort Worth, Texas, within Tarrant County.
Berman had suffered a serious brain injury and his family rushed to the hospital to support him. After beginning to treat Berman, hospital personnel led his family to believe that he would be treated at JPS for a week and then transferred home with the necessary equipment to continue his care. Relieved, Berman’s exhausted family went home to rest.
Just Berman’s father remained by his son’s side at the hospital. At 6 a.m. the next morning, Dr. Theresa Duane arrived in Berman’s hospital room and announced to his father that the “doctors had come to a decision” and that she was there to remove Berman’s life support. Berman’s father was shocked and horrified. He objected strongly but it was to no avail. Berman’s father was made to watch helplessly as Dr. Duane and hospital personnel extubated his son, ending his life.
Berman’s family was understandably devastated.
The heartbroken family filed a federal lawsuit against JPS, Dr. Duane, and Acclaim Physician Group, which employed her. That same year, a North Texas based advocacy group blew the whistle on Dr. Duane’s conduct, bringing attention to the fact that she actually had a penchant for ending patients’ life support without consent.
If you are thinking that this is an unfortunate yet isolated incident, you are mistaken. Incidents such as Berman’s are reaching an all-time high in Texas and across the country. More and more families are finding themselves in the nightmare situation in which they are stripped of any medical decision-making rights only to have to watch their loved one’s life ended prematurely. Tragically, here in Texas, one of the most dangerous places a patient can be is in a hospital in Tarrant County.
JPS and Acclaim, both part of the Tarrant County government hospital system, issued a response briefing in which they make no attempt to conceal their blatant and aggressive disdain for patients’ medical decision-making rights.
Here is a sampling of what JPS and Acclaim, represented by the Tarrant County law firm Cantey Hanger LLP, argued for concerning your rights as a patient:
- Only if you are a prisoner must the State respect your health care decisions. As absurd as it sounds, if you are not a prisoner, JPS and Acclaim argue that a government hospital and government employees can legally hasten your death and not be held liable. If you are an average, law-abiding citizen, JPS/Acclaim argue that the physicians in Tarrant County can simply end your life-sustaining treatment at will, and according to them, they are protected by the law to do so.
- Only if the hospital’s healthcare decisions result in an injury and you live, are you allowed to hold them responsible. JPS/Acclaim argues that if you die because of their unauthorized actions, your family cannot hold the hospital or their personnel responsible. So if their actions result in your death, your family cannot seek justice for you!
- There is no recourse for the patient’s family if life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn without consent. According to JPS/Acclaim, a doctor has sole discretion to make treatment decisions – even if those decisions end the life of the patient. They argue that these medical treatment decisions are not actionable.
- Finally, the most incredible argument of all: Though a physician may consult with your wife, your mother, or your adult son or daughter regarding treatment decisions to end your life, they are not required to do so. JPS and Acclaim allege that hospitals and physicians have the ability to remove life support even outside the context of the 10-Day Rule. JPS/Acclaim argue that Texas’ 10-Day Rule, as egregious as it may be, is not the only means by which hospitals and physicians have the authority to unilaterally remove life-sustaining treatment from patients.
Texas Right to Life authored an amicus brief to combat these breathtakingly hostile positions espoused by the JPS hospital system.
The willingness and ability of hospitals like JPS to deny responsibility for their horrendous actions is astonishing. Yet this trend is sadly growing. Reports of heartbreaking cases like Berman’s are becoming increasingly common, in Tarrant County and in hospitals across Texas.
As Pro-Lifers we cannot stand idly by and allow more and more patients to be denied their Right to Life. Join Texas Right to Life’s efforts to defend Life as we prioritize the defense of vulnerable patients in the next legislative session.