Tirhas Habtegiris

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Tirhas Habtegiris (1978 – December 14, 2005), a legal female immigrant into the United States from Eritrea, was removed from a respirator under Texas law against the wishes of her family, Habtegiris had cancer that had spread to her lungs and she was diagnosed as terminally ill.

There is debate over whether Habtegiris was conscious and responsive when the respirator was removed. Her family claims that she was conscious and responsive and suffocated over the course of 16 minutes. The hospital claims that she had been unconscious and unresponsive since shortly after her admission, due to the large doses of intravenous narcotics necessary to manage her pain.

Under the Texas Advance Directives Act (or Futile Care Law), a terminally ill patient can be removed, at the hospital's discretion, from life-sustaining treatment that "the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment." (See §166.046 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.) In particular, it does not allow or even address withdrawing treatment simply because of inability to pay, contrary to erroneous media reports (some of which are referenced below). The hospital claimed that financial considerations had nothing to do with the decision.

A statement from the hospital indicates they offered to hire an immigration attorney to bring the woman's mother to her bedside so that she could die in her mother's arms, but the family said that the process in their home country would take too long.

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