House panel clears do-not-re­sus­ci­tate leg­is­la­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Chuck Lin­dell clin­dell@states­ Con­tact Chuck Lin­dell at 512912-2569. Twit­ter: @chuck­lin­dell

Hours of fre­quently tense ne­go­ti­a­tions have bro­ken an im­passe over a bill to re­quire spe­cific pa­tient ap­proval for do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­ders in hos­pi­tals, mak­ing it all but cer­tain that Gov. Greg Ab­bott will be able to sign leg­is­la­tion on one of his 20 pri­or­i­ties for the special leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

With the signed agree­ment in hand, the House State Af­fairs Com­mit­tee voted 9-0 Thurs­day to ap­prove a re­vamped ver­sion of Se­nate Bill 11 that the spon­sor, Rep. Greg Bon­nen, R-Friendswood, said pre­serves the “fun­da­men­tal pol­icy” of the orig­i­nal bill while of­fer­ing pro­tec­tions sought by doc­tors, nurses and hos­pi­tal em­ploy­ees.

“As long as they are act­ing in good faith, they are not in any way pun­ished or pe­nal­ized for any hon­est er­ror or omis­sion” for fail­ing to heed a do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­der, said Bon­nen, a neu­ro­sur­geon. “If they’re act­ing in good faith, try­ing to help with­out know­ing that a DNR had been is­sued, they are not in vi­o­la­tion of the law.”

Bon­nen said he will fight any at­tempts to amend SB 11 on the House floor as part of the agree­ment with groups that op­pose abor­tion, the Texas Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, dis­abil­ity rights ad­vo­cates and the Texas Catholic Con­fer­ence of Bish­ops. The agree­ment also was ne­go­ti­ated with Rep. By­ron Cook, R-Cor­si­cana, the chair­man of State Af­fairs, and mem­bers of Ab­bott’s of­fice.

The pact in­cludes a signed let­ter from Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lub­bock, stat­ing that he will ask the Se­nate to con­cur with changes made by the House — an agree­ment that the Se­nate’s Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity is un­likely to ig­nore.

When the Se­nate passed the bill last month, Perry ac­knowl­edged that it needed work and ex­pressed hope that the House could ar­rive at the needed fixes.

The new SB 11 re­quires in-hos­pi­tal do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­ders from an at­tend­ing doc­tor to be in writ­ing or, if given ver­bally by the pa­tient, wit­nessed by “two com­pe­tent adult wit­nesses.”

SB 11 also re­quires doc­tors to in­form the pa­tient — or le­gal guardian or per­son with med­i­cal power of at­tor­ney for pa­tients who are not com­pe­tent to make their own choices — be­fore plac­ing the or­der in a pa­tient’s chart.

Do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­ders are valid if not con­trary to a com­pe­tent pa­tient’s de­sires and if, in the doc­tor’s rea­son­able judg­ment, a pa­tient’s death is im­mi­nent and “the DNR or­der is med­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate,” SB 11 says.

Doc­tors, nurses or hos­pi­tal em­ploy­ees who in­ten­tion­ally con­ceal, can­cel or fal­sify a do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­der — or con­ceal a pa­tient’s re­vo­ca­tion of such an or­der — can be pun­ished with up to one year in jail. Those who in­ten­tion­ally fail to follow a do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­der also could be dis­ci­plined by med­i­cal li­cens­ing boards.

Rep. Greg Bon­nen says the bill pro­tects med­i­cal staff.

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