As Republicans plotted congressional intervention last week to extend the life of Terri Schiavo, a Texas woman named Wanda Hudson watched her 6-month-old baby die in her arms after doctors removed the breathing tube that kept him alive. Hudson didn't want the tube removed, but the baby's doctors decided for her. A judge signed off on the decision under the Texas futile care law -- a provision first signed into law in 1999 by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
Under the 1999 law, doctors in Texas, with the support of a hospital ethics committee, can overrule the wishes of family members and terminate life-support measures if they believe further care would be futile. Bush signed the bill after interested parties, including antiabortion activists, agreed on compromise language that required hospitals to give families 10 days' notice before terminating care and to help families find an alternative treatment facility that would continue care instead.
That process worked last week for the family of Spiro Nikolouzos, a retired electrical engineer who was critically injured in a car accident 10 years ago and has been in a persistent vegetative state since at least 2001. The Houston Chronicle reports that a lawyer for Nikolouzos' family was able to delay the termination of care by a Houston hospital just long enough for the family to find a nursing home in San Antonio that would take him in.
Wanda Hudson didn't have that option. According to the Chronicle, Texas Children's Hospital said it contacted 40 facilities with newborn intensive care units, but not one of them would accept Hudson's baby. He died last Tuesday, just minutes after doctors removed his breathing tube. So far as we can tell, neither the White House nor any member of Congress made any effort to intervene in the case.