By Dr Jacqueline Harvey
On Friday, June 12, 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott overturned 16 years of legal forced dehydration and starvation in Texas by signing House Bill 3074. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) was present for the historic moment and presented a commendation to Representative Drew Springer on his skillful passage of this landmark legislation, and EPC briefly explained the significance of this bi-partisan, unanimously-supported, model disability rights bill. HB 3074 is a critical first step in EPC’s national and worldwide efforts to restore the rights of persons with disabilities to receive nutrition and hydration (ANH). Therefore this vital win in Texas is anticipated to save lives not just within the Lone Star State but throughout the United States and even globally as EPC prepares to explore this issue with standing at the United Nations.
Under Representative Springer’s leadership, HB 3074 moved Texas from the one state to allow healthcare providers to remove food and water in any circumstance to joining five other states that explicitly protect patients in need of ANH. The Texas law was an anomaly in that it allowed the medical community authority to remove ANH in any circumstance. In contrast, five states have passed laws to ensure that food and water is not forcibly withheld by a healthcare provider to kill a patient. Now that HB 3074 is signed into law, Texas no longer ranks as the worst state for patients in need of ANH but ranks among the best.
EPC believes that HB 3074 is model legislation. Representative Springer brokered an unprecedented compromise that cleared a 12-year stalemate on this issue. HB 3074 began in committee with opposition, but Springer was able to find language agreeable to all parties and foster unity to enable the bill to be passed in all committees and chambers of both House and Senate with no opposition.
The universal agreement on the wording in HB 3074 across various stakeholder groups and unanimous passage from the Texas House of Representatives as well and the Texas Senate indicates broad, bi-partisan support that EPC expects to cultivate nationwide. Furthermore, EPC hopes to employ the language from HB 3074 to reform Connecticut law, the only other state that grants healthcare providers authority to starve and dehydrate patients in some circumstances (terminal illness and permanent unconsciousness). Moreover, the broad bi-partisan support and unanimous passage of HB 3074 through both chambers of the Texas Legislature indicates that this model legislation has significant promise of passage in a variety of political environments, red states and blue states alike.