In light of what happened 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.
“The hospital wants to turn Chris' nutrients and extra air off and they are playing God. They want to kill my son. They say there is nothing else they can do for him, but I don't believe that," claimed Dunn's mother. "When they found out that Chris did not have insurance, they said they were done."
Chris succumbed to his illness one month after the hospital discontinued treatment.
Watch the video clip at the top of the page to see "The News and Why it Matters" and get the panel's reaction.