Man at center of right-to-life debate dies in Houston hospital

Video shows Chris Dunn begging to stay alive


The Texas man who was stricken with a mystery illness that led his rapid decline and stirred a national debate about end-of-life care died Wednesday morning while still receiving care at the hospital.

Few details were provided about the circumstances leading to Christopher Dunn's death, but his sister said that a mass was discovered on his pancreas.

Dunn did not have medical insurance, but was being treated at Houston Methodist Hospital. The hospital, citing a controversial state law, reportedly told Dunn's family that it would stop treating the man in 10 days. The law, the state’s 1999 Advance Directives Act, has been called “draconian” by right-to-life groups. These groups say the legislation strips any life-or-death decision from the patient and family and hands it to a faceless panel at the hospital.

Methodist has long maintained that the patient’s quality of life is its priority. The hospital issued a statement obtained by after Dunn's death: "We understand how difficult it is when a loved one is gravely ill and medical decisions must be made," the hospital said. "Our compassionate physicians and staff provided active life-sustaining medical care during Chris’ entire stay in the hospital. Houston Methodist is honored to have served Chris and his family in a spiritual environment of caring."

After Dunn's rapid decline, the family held out hope that there was treatment and a recovery was possible. They videoed Dunn in the hospital bed appearing to nod yes when asked if he wanted to continue treatment.

Joe Nixon, an attorney with Texas Right to Life who represented Dunn, told “Fox & Friends” Saturday, “It’s easy to argue: Well, he’s terminal -- let’s end it peacefully,” Nixon said. “But where do you draw the line?”

“A criminal on death row in Texas has more rights than a patient in a Texas hospital," Nixon said. Nixon’s argument is essentially that, under the state’s law, a hospital has the right to make life-or-death decisions without the patient or family’s approval.

Evelyn Kelly, Dunn’s mother, released a statement thanking the hospital’s staff, but vowed to continue her fight against the “horrible law.”

“No family should have to fight for the Right of Life of their loved one,” the statement said.