Representative Bonnen, M.D., makes headway on Pro-Life Do-Not-Resuscitate order bill

After years of helping vulnerable Texas patients remove secret, unwanted Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders from their medical files, Texas Right to Life is optimistic the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature will step forward by explicitly requiring patient or surrogate consent in most circumstances.  With 26 days left in the session, the recent State Affairs vote makes House Bill 2063 the only Pro-Life priority bill to be passed out of any House Committee.

In the last decade, Texas Right to Life has led the campaign to raise awareness that current Texas law is silent on whether an in-hospital DNR order requires patient or surrogate consent.  Thus, policies are written by each individual hospital system within the state.  Many Texans have been surprised to discover that explicit directions in an advance directive, or clear instructions from a conscious patient or surrogate, can be overridden or unheeded in regard to a DNR order.  This is a threat to a patient’s Right to Life because such an order allows medical professionals to forgo certain life-sustaining procedures like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if needed.  Without these procedures, the patient would, in most cases, perish.

Fortunately, the Committee Substitute for House Bill 2063 by physician Dr. Greg Bonnen, a Republican representative from Galveston County, passed the House Committee on State Affairs earlier this week.  The Texas Right to Life Legislative team testified in favor of House Bill 2063 during the bill’s hearing in early April.  After the hearing, Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) required the bill’s author to arrive at a committee substitute appealing to other interested parties, including groups that registered against or neutrally during the hearing.

For the last several weeks, Representative Bonnen and Texas Right to Life have been active in negotiations with other parties, which at times seemed futile.  Because of his tireless work, Bonnen was finally able to propose language that protected the majority of patients from forced DNRs, while addressing the criticisms of interested parties.

Texas Right to Life is incredibly thankful for Representative Bonnen and his Capitol staff for recognizing the dire need for such legislation, pushing diligently to ensure that most patients have the right to direct this important life or death decision, and fighting to politically move the ball forward.

Although patients in Texas are still under the mercy of the draconian and unconstitutional 10-day law, whereby life-sustaining treatment can be removed against a patient’s wishes, House Bill 2063 is one important step forward in restoring dignity for the sick, the elderly, and those with disabilities in Texas.

Though Representative Bonnen has skillfully maneuvered through the barrier of the House Committee on State Affairs, House Bill 2063 still faces several obstacles before the bill becomes law.  Because political games and bad faith negotiations are the norm for the Capitol at this late hour in the legislative session, Texas Right to Life will continue to closely watch and lobby for this priority bill.  Stay tuned to Texas Right to Life for important updates.