HOUSTON, Texas — A Texas mother claims a hospital is seeking to end the life of a her son who is a fully conscious patient. The patient’s mother says that a hospital administrative death panel is “Playing God” in deciding whether her son has the “quality of life” to continue to live.
Her son, Christopher David Dunn, 46, a fully-conscious former peace officer, is receiving life-sustaining care. Hospital officials in Houston are fighting to stop that care.
The man, his mother, and his lawyers, have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to save the man’s life. His attorney, Joe Nixon, told Breitbart Texas, “A criminal on death row in Texas has more rights than a patient in a Texas hospital.” He says a Texas statute denies a patient all due process rights and is unconstitutional.
Trey Trainor, another lawyer with the same firm who is representing Dunn, says Texas law gives a hospital the right to make life or death decisions without consulting the patient or the patient’s family.
Dunn is fully conscious but is receiving oxygen and antibiotics through two tubes down his throat. He is receiving fluids and nutrients intravenously.
Dunn’s lawyers and his mother say he is capable of making his own decisions but has difficulty speaking because of the two tubes in his throat.
Hospital officials are fighting to stop his treatment and have filed for a court to appoint a guardian to make decisions for him. Dunn filed suit but the hospital filed their own lawsuit asking that a guardian be appointed for Dunn. Dunn and his mother, Evelyn Kelly, have been making choices regarding his care.
A video (below) made by Ms. Kelly on December 2nd and produced with the help of a Houston-based pro-life organization, Texas Right to Life, shows that Dunn understands the questions asked of him, and he communicates that he wants to live.
Dunn is a former sheriff’s deputy and has worked as a Homeland Security officer but had no health insurance when he got sick. He has been in the hospital for eight weeks since a noncancerous mass was found where his small intestine connects to the pancreas. Ms. Kelly says the mass is squeezing off the small intestine and is affecting his liver and kidneys.
The distraught mother told Breitbart Texas, “The hospital wants to turn Chris’ nutrients and extra air off and they are playing God. They want to kill my son. They say there is nothing else they can do for him, but I don’t believe that.”
“When they found out that Chris did not have insurance, they said they were done,” Chris’ mother claimed.
She says the hospital wants to turn off the breathing machine and administer a dose of morphine and another drug she did not know the name of. She was told it would take only three to five minutes for Chris to die if the drugs were administered.
Ms. Kelly and Mr. Dunn received a letter from the Meeting Chair of the Houston Methodist Bioethics Committee, J. Richard Cheney. The letter (attached below) said “the Committee has decided that life-sustaining treatment is medically inappropriate for Chris and that all treatments other than those needed to keep him comfortable should be discontinued and withheld.”
Ms. Kelly asked the hospital ethics representative – “Who gave you the right to turn off life support from my son?!” The hospital representative replied – “George Bush.”
“The statute makes the decision of the hospital committee final, not appealable, and there is no right to go into a court of law to have a judge review the hospital’s decisions,” Dunn’s lawyer, Joe Nixon, told Breitbart Texas. He said the decision is made behind closed doors in a hospital and a patient has no representative or due process rights.
Nixon, a former Texas state house representative, said the hospital filed a lawsuit for a guardian to be appointed because they do not want a judge ruling on the constitutionality of the statute.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states in part that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
A statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from Houston Methodist Hospital said, “We want to express our deepest sympathies and offer our prayers to the family during this difficult time. Out of respect for the family and because of patient privacy laws, we cannot discuss the particulars of the case. We are providing the best possible care to the patient and we continue to care for him. We are working with the courts to get guidance on who has legal guardianship of the patient.”
The statement from the hospital continues, “Within the patient’s family there is disagreement on the appropriate end-of-life care for this patient. We feel strongly that every decision we have made is in the best interest of the patient, and the Houston Methodist staff works hard and compassionately every day to help families who are facing difficult end-of-life issues. Houston Methodist is a faith-based, values-centered organization that strives to make the best choices for all our patients. We will continue assisting the family through this painful process.”
Breitbart Texas spoke with Melissa Conway of Texas Right to Life who said, “It is unprecedented how unconstitutional this statute is. It truly allows the rights of a patient to be stripped away from a patient or a patient’s right of attorney and gives them to a faceless panel of hospital administrators.”
Conway said that Texas Right to Life has navigated over 250 of these cases but that Chris Dunn’s case is “the perfect storm.” She said the organization has never seen a case where a patient is conscious and the hospital makes a value judgment about that person’s life.
She added that their pro-life organization has been fighting the statute that gives hospitals this power for 18 years, approximately nine Texas legislative sessions.
Ms. Kelly told Breitbart Texas, “This is bigger than Chris, and if other people don’t think that this can happen to your son or daughter, then it sure can. If they can do it to Chris, and they will, they can do it to anyone.”
The crying mother said, “It just amazes me that life does not mean anything anymore. They are supposed to be saving lives, not taking lives.”
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2