HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Another Right to Die Case Working Way Through Courts in Texas

Spiro Nikolouzos has been diagnosed in a persistent vegetative state since 2001.  He is ventilator-dependent and receives artificial nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube.  On March 7, the Houston Chronicle reported that his hospital had invoked the Texas Advance Directive Act  (ch. 166 of the Health and Safety Code) and determined that further treatment would be medically inappropriate and would be discontinued in 10 days unless another facility agreed to accept his transfer.

The next day, the Chronicle reported -- misleadingly and even inaccurately, as far as I can tell -- that the patient's hospital cited "[a] patient's inability to pay for medical care combined with a prognosis that renders further care futile [as] two reasons a hospital might suggest cutting off life support."  What the hospital's chief medical officer appeared to say, however, was that it would be difficult to find a hospital or other facility that would be willing to accept a patient with such a bleak prognosis who was also unfunded.  Lack of funding was not cited by the CMO as a reason for his hospital to discontinue life-sustaining treatment.

Since then, the Nikolouzos case has bounced from trial court to one Houston appellate court and then to another Houston appellate court and back to trial court.  The bottom line (as reported in Friday's Chronicle) is that the patient's family has been given until Wednesday to produce proof that a hospital or nursing home has agreed to accept Mr. Nikolouzos.  Failing that, it would the hospital's prerogative under the Texas statute to discontinue life-support (presumably his mechanical ventilator). [tm]

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