August 18, 2021

Patient Recovers After Texas Hospital Invokes Controversial 10-Day Rule

Jose Cobos-Portillo
In September 2020, Jose Cobos-Portillo came to the U.S. from Mexico on a work visa. In the same month that he arrived, he caught a severe case of COVID-19 and was admitted to Northwest Texas Healthcare in Amarillo to receive care. In the two months that he stayed at the hospital, his life was threatened not only by COVID-19, but also by a hospital threatening to withdraw life-saving medical care.

Northwest Texas Healthcare had invoked the state's controversial 10-day rule, which would allow the hospital to remove life-sustaining care from Cobos-Portillo in 10 days if his family could not find another hospital willing to take him as a patient.

Cobos-Portillo spent much of his time in the hospital under a medically-induced coma. His family was not allowed to visit him because he was in the COVID wing, and they could not speak English proficiently enough to find another hospital to take Cobos-Portillo.

“A doctor started to get arrogant with me; he told me that he wasn’t asking for my permission,” said Arturo, Cobos-Portillo's brother. “He told me that he was going to go to a committee and that they were going to disconnect Jose… The doctor told me that Jose had run out of options and that he only had one week left. So he was going to go to the committee and we would have to disconnect him. One of them claimed that I accepted that they would disconnect him; we never wanted that. It was so difficult for us, we were here in Mexico, and he was alone in the U.S., hospitalized in Amarillo. There wasn’t anything that we could do and it was so difficult, the whole family was suffering with that uncertainty.”

Arturo was his brother's medical decision-maker while his brother was in a coma. He tried to advocate for his brother's life in phone calls and ethics committee meetings, but he was limited by the language barrier. The hospital provided no interpreters to assist him during the process.

After Cobos-Portillo's family received legal help from Texas Right to Life, Northwest Texas Healthcare granted him an indefinite amount of time to recover. He stayed in the hospital for three more months after it had attempted to invoke the 10-day rule, after which he successfully recovered. With the help of physical therapy and oxygen, he was able to return to his family.

“[M]y brother Arturo met a very good lady named Katherine Pitcher who talked with the hospital and told them that if they wanted to disconnect me, they would face consequences. I had already had eye movements and responses at this time,” said Cobos-Portillo.