When Is It Ethical For A Hospital To Stop A Patient’s Treatment?

A judge temporarily stopped a Fort Worth hospital’s decision to take a 9-month-old patient off life support so the family can seek treatment elsewhere.

By Michael MarksNovember 14, 2019 3:43 pm,

A Tarrant County district judge has temporarily stopped a decision by doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth to disconnect a 9-month-old child from life support. Judge Alex Kim ruled that the hospital must continue treating her until Nov. 22 to give her family time to find another treatment facility. The child has spent her whole life on life support; she has a rare heart condition called Ebstein’s anomaly, as well as chronic lung disease and chronic hypertension. Without life support she would likely die.

Tom Mayo is a medical ethicist and professor of law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of law. He says the judge’s decision comes from a 1999 statute passed by the Texas Legislature that allows for a 10-day period for families to find other options when there’s a dispute over treatment.

“Ethically, medicine reaches the end of the road for everybody where there’s just nothing left for a medical professional to do other than to prepare for the end,” Mayo says. “The Texas Advanced Directives Act … we have a provision in there that says that if there is a dispute over treatment that the physicians regard as inappropriate or futile, then there’s a process that we can go through.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How hospitals have processes to determine when to legally terminate medical treatment 

– Who decides when a treatment is futile and needs to end

– Whether limited financial resources play a role when it comes to ethical decision-making in hospitals  


Written by Antonio Cueto.