Chris Dunn, a 46 year old former EMT and Homeland Security officer, is fighting to stay alive at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.
But he isn’t just fighting for his life, he’s fighting against the hospital’s plans to terminate his life. Literally fighting a death panel for the right to be alive.
In the shocking video below, Chris is asked by his family’s attorneys whether or not he wishes to stay alive. He nods his head and places his hands together, as if he is pleading and praying for their help.
During interviews on Sunday with both Dunn’s sister, Holly Gomez, and mother, Evelyn Kelly, they explained that Dunn originally went to an urgent care facility with severe abdominal pain in August 2015. The facility performed a CAT scan and found a mass on his pancreas.
Dunn is currently uninsured and applied for a Harris County Gold card, which would provide him with subsidized health insurance to help him afford a biopsy of the mass to confirm a diagnosis. But several weeks later, he began vomiting blood and became so ill he was simply unable to wait, so he was rushed to the emergency room and admitted to a small hospital in Pasadena, Texas on October 12th.
Dunn was stabilized in Pasadena, but was put on a ventilator while at that hospital. His family still has not been told why the ventilator was necessary or if there was another option. Once stable, he was transferred to Houston Methodist Hospital because the local facility simply could not accommodate the level of care he needed.
It is from Houston Methodist that his family is now speaking to RedState. It is here that the fight for his life became not just a health issue, but tragically, unjustly, an administrative one.
His mother Evelyn related that Dunn now has fluid constantly building up in his abdomen and the mass in his pancreas is squeezing his small intestine, which affects his liver and kidneys. The family has asked for a procedure to put in a drain to allow the fluid building up in his abdomen to drain by itself, but the doctors have reportedly refused, stating that it would just be one more site that could become infected and was not worth the risk.
However, medical professionals have performed three paracentesis procedures to drain the abdomen fluid instead, and each time they do this, they risk another infection. The fluid keeps coming back, which is increasingly painful for Dunn, but his family has yet to receive a valid reason why the doctors won’t agree to the preventive measure.
Dunn's sister Holly also explained that her brother has been on the ventilator for eight weeks now. After a pulmonary technician candidly advised her mother they shouldn’t have the ventilator in longer than three weeks, Evelyn approached one of Dunn’s doctors about performing a tracheostomy to remove the ventilator and allow Dunn to breathe.
Evelyn stated the doctor told her, “Ms. Kelly, you have already chosen the route that your son’s going to go. So no, I will not put a trach in his throat.”
The ventilator has been in for so long now that his body cannot breathe without it, even though his lung function was never the problem. But it is now one of the problems Dunn faces since his doctors never informed him- or his family- about the dangers of leaving the ventilator in too long.
In a meeting shortly after arriving at Houston Methodist, the hospital staff told Dunn’s family that he was in systemic organ failure and would die within 2 to 3 weeks. He has now been there 8 weeks with no additional explanation being offered.
As bad as all this is, and as shocking as the hospital's decisions up to this point have been, it gets worse.
Doctors are treating this case as an end-of-life treatment due to cancer. That is an important change in both how his care is provided, and the rationale that the hospital uses to decide on appropriate care. They made this decision despite the fact that they haven’t actually received conclusive proof that the mass on his pancreas is, in fact, cancer. Holly states:
“The doctors told us they believe the mass on his pancreas is cancer, but have no proof and have not requested an oncologist to come look at him or his lab work, imaging, etc.”
They have not even requested an oncologist to confirm a cancer diagnosis. But the hospital is ready to give this man a death sentence anyway.
Evelyn elaborated that they have tested his blood and fluid multiple times, and each time yields the same result: no positive markers for cancer. This sounds like a decision, not a diagnosis.
What the hospital did next was shockingly insensitive and further traumatized a family already in despair. Instead of pursuing any further testing, Evelyn was bombarded by eleven hospital employees, including lawyers, who marched into her son’s hospital room and handed her a notice explaining their plans to end life-sustaining treatment, invoking the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), a law enacted in Texas in 1999 while George W. Bush was still the governor.
Under this law, if a hospital or physician decides for any reason they disagree with a patient’s decision about their own personal medical care, they may invoke TADA and override the patient or family’s decision about their medical treatment. Incredibly, they are not even legally required to provide any reason for their decision, or more specifically whether the basis of their decision is a financial or other self-serving reason. All they have to do is serve the patient or patient’s representative with the required 10-day notice.
Understand the implication here. After failing to confirm the diagnosis, after foregoing further medical testing, in contravention of the wishes of the patient and his family, the hospital brought in lawyers to tell the suffering mother that her son was being removed from the machines that keep him alive. And they do not have to specify if this is for financial reasons. And, there is still more.
After it was explained to her what they were planning, Evelyn asked the group of employees, “Who gives you the right to do this to my son?
She remembers Richard Cheney, Head of the Ethics Committee, coldly answering:
“George W. Bush does.”
Now remember, Dunn is currently uninsured. And the “patient advocate” who was helping Dunn apply for emergency Medicaid before TADA was invoked told Evelyn that getting the necessary paperwork to send in the Medicaid application should be her “number one priority- and nothing else.”
Evelyn says she argued, “My number one priority is laying down the hallway in bed number [redacted for privacy]. Why are you so on fire about this?”
The hospital employee’s response is a tell-all.
“Well, the reason I’m so concerned about this is because Methodist Hospital has to get paid, Ms. Kelly.”
So much for death panels being a ridiculous political scare tactic. The hospital's priorities are painfully clear- their main concern is not for the patient's life, but making sure they will get paid.
After the hospital ethics committee gave Evelyn the required TADA notice, she contacted the group Texas Right to Life, who helped her file the necessary paperwork to request an extension with the courts. So far, a judge has granted her two 2 week extensions to keep her son from being murdered.
But Houston Methodist Hospital won’t back down. Holly says they have countered the judicial extensions with a lawsuit to remove Dunn from the process, remove his mother as Dunn’s power of attorney, and place that power into a third party’s hands.
On Saturday, after the hospital's lawsuit was filed, the hospital brought in their own psychiatrist to interview Dunn, coincidentally mere hours after he had a procedure that required high doses of pain medicine rendering him unable to effectively communicate. His sister Holly assumes it was a ploy to build their case proving Dunn unable to make decisions for himself.
If the hospital gets its way, Evelyn says they will unplug Dunn’s ventilator, administer a drug to make him more comfortable, and he will die within 3 to 4 minutes due to the fact that his lungs have been on the ventilator so long they are not strong enough to breathe on their own. Eight weeks, you will remember. Eight weeks by the hospital's decision.
The hospital wants to end this man’s life despite the fact that he has expressed – consciously, coherently, emphatically - that he does not want to be taken off life support, and despite the fact that his family has made it clear they wish to keep him alive.
It does make one wonder: would all of this be happening had Dunn been covered under an insurance policy and the hospital was getting reimbursed for these procedures? His family sure doesn’t think so. How can a hospital determine someone’s life is not worth living, especially with no confirmation of the suspected diagnosis or prognosis of the patient?
What reason could possibly exist, other than protecting profit margins, for a hospital to refuse treatment to a conscious, coherent patient begging for medical treatment?
What kind of draconian world would allow the state to kill someone against their own wishes? Isn’t that murder? And it’s happening right here in Texas.
Consider this: it is currently illegal in Texas for a doctor to assist a patient who knows they are dying and wishes to end his or her own life. Assisted suicide in Texas can be classified as a state jail felony.
But under TADA, doctors in Texas are legally allowed to kill a patient who is literally pleading for someone to help save him. And they can do this for whatever reason they deem appropriate.
Holly stated in closing:
“I don’t know if my brother will survive this illness, but we will not stand by and let someone other than God make that decision. We will fight for him, and pray that no other family has to be subjected to this. I don’t know how these people can call themselves an ethics committee when what they are trying to do is about as unethical as it gets.”
Dunn’s family goes back to court on December 16th, when a judge will determine what happens next, and whether or not Dunn has a right to the medical care he is praying to receive.
If anyone is able to make a donation to Chris Dunn's medical expenses, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/helpchrisseexmas