Infighting in the Pro-Life Movement Killed a Bill to Reform End-of-Life Care

A bill aimed to reform end-of-life care in Texas is likely to die in the state House. Although the bill made it through the Texas Senate, Representative Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican, told the Austin American-Statesman that it won't get a vote due to splits among House Republicans.

Currently if doctors believe continuing treatment would needlessly extend suffering, they can ask an ethics committee -- usually consisting of other doctors, social workers and clergy -- to stop life-sustaining treatment. If the patient or family wants to continue treatment, they have 10 days to appeal the decision and find another provider.

The most contentious parts of the bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Deuell of Greenville, aims to revise this process, providing families with 21 days to find alternate care instead of 10 as well as giving them more days to prepare for the ethics panel.

As we reported in April, Texas pro-life groups have been bitterly split over the bill from the beginning. Its demise comes just as Duell and Texas Right to Life director Elizabeth Graham have been going at each other's throat's, Texas Tribune .

Deuell compared the pro-life group to "the woman that went to Solomon and wanted the baby to be cut in two," and took issue with Graham's claims in emails that the bill would "strengthen Texas' death panels."

See also: The Pro-Life Movement is Divided Over Bill to Reform End-of-Life Care

Apparently this isn't the first time Graham has butted heads with Republican lawmakers. In 2007, when similar end-of-life reform was under discussion, Texas Right to Life claimed that Representative John Zerwas, an anesthesiologist, supported the legislation because it would be a boon to his salary.

"My relationship with Texas Right to Life has been strained, and it's directly related to Elizabeth Graham and her style of politics," Zerwas told the Tribune. "She concocts stories out of things that are not real, publishes them and then tries to get people to donate to her cause by creating a false crisis."

Among the groups supporting the bill are Texas Alliance for Life, another prominent pro-life group, along with the Texas Catholic Conference, the Christian Life Commission, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and the Texas Medical Association. Opposing it are the Texas Eagle Forum, American Life League, and ADAPT Texas, a disability rights group.

Texas Right to Life wants to see legislation that would require doctors and hospitals to continue treatment until they find another provider, but so far no such bills have made it through committee. Most groups for and against the bill to agree that the current system needs to be revised.

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Luke Darby
Contact: Luke Darby