By Peter J. Smith

  DALLAS, Texas, August 21, 2006 ( – The children of a comatose woman are challenging in court the “compassionate reasons” for a Texas hospital’s decision to remove their mother’s life-saving treatment, asserting that their mother, a devout Baptist woman, never would consent to anyone but God ending her life.

On August 8, just days after 61-year-old Ruthie Webster’s insurance stopped full coverage of her long-term care, the Regency Hospital’s bioethics committee in North Dallas, Texas, unanimously told the Webster family that they would discontinue life-preserving dialysis treatment for their mother within 10 days. The hospital claimed that Ruthie Webster’s physician “has seen no appreciable change in your mother’s medical condition” and that continued treatment was an exercise in futility.

The decision shocked family members, since their mother is not brain-dead, but comatose, and has been making slow progress, breathing now on her own without a ventilator, ever since she suffered a bad reaction after undergoing kidney dialysis in June rendering her mostly unresponsive. The family, however, has said their mother told them to take care of her in such a situation, saying that she believes only God has the right to take life away.

“My mom spent her life in the church. She always felt like, ‘Who are we to decide? God decides,’” said Lacresia Webster on Thursday. “If this is the way she’s going to be, she’s still my mom. I’m not giving up on her.”

However, the Regency Hospital board defends its decision citing a 1999 statute in Texas’ Health and Safety Code that gives a hospital’s ethics committee the last word about continuing a patient’s care. Under the law, if the ethics committee decides to end a patient’s medical care, including life-saving treatment, a family has only 10 days to transfer to another medical facility that will care for the patient.

Although Regency has offered to help find another medical facility for Ruthie Webster in Atlanta or Indiana, the family does not want to move their mother, unless they can help it.

“I find it hard to believe this is a law, because you’re basically saying if this person is a burden to someone, let’s just kill them, and that’s unacceptable,” Lacresia Webster told Dallas’s NBC 5.

“When God is ready for her, God will take her, not anyone else,” Lacresia Webster vowed.

Intent on keeping this vow, Lacresia and her family have enlisted the aid of pro-bono attorneys who have filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “end-of-life” law. The family then won a temporary restraining order imposed on Regency Hospital to keep Ruthie Webster alive there until a hearing set for August 28.

Robert Bennet, a lawyer for the Websters said the law “allows a doctor to completely ignore what I’ve told them I wanted to do.” He added, “Mrs. Webster was a Baptist. She told her daughters very clearly that God would take her when it’s her time to go. This statute violates her freedom of religion.”

“My mother, she’s breathing on her own, just like you and I are today,” said Helena Webster Hill, who lives in Atlanta. “As long as she’s fighting to live, we believe we ought to stand with her and fight with her.”