In light of what’s happening to baby Alfie Evans in the UK (find out more about Alfie here), many Americans take comfort in knowing that American hospital administrations do not have the authority to overrule the wishes of a patient or the patient’s family when deciding whether or not to continue life support. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
In 2015, a 46-year-old Texan, Christopher David Dunn, was diagnosed with a noncancerous but otherwise unidentified mass on his pancreas. Though Dunn was fully-conscious and clearly expressing his desire to live, the Houston Methodist Hospital’s administrative “death panel” ruled to discontinue life-sustaining care.
J. Richard Cheney, the Meeting Chair of the Houston Methodist Bioethics Committee, sent a letter to Dunn and his mother, Evelyn Kelly, which read: “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.”
Dunn was a former sheriff’s deputy and Homeland Security officer but had no health insurance at the time of his illness. Along with his family, Dunn filed a lawsuit against the hospital in an attempt to save his life.