Emilio lives! And perhaps the right to live can be decided by the family, and not a hospital committee. Sign the petition to let him continue his natural life's progression...
Dear Readers,The following update comes from Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet:"Bob Kafka just called to let us know that Emilio's attorney wassuccessful in getting a temporary restraining order (TRO) untilApril 19, extending the time during which he will continue toreceive life-sustaining treatment.Bob believes that we should continue our efforts to focus onTexas Governor Perry, including letters, calls and the petition,and he thinks that the political activity around the case impactedthe court."
AAPD is writing a second letter to Governor Perry, a copy of whichwe will be posted on the AAPD website by tomorrow at:http://www.aapd.com/News/bioethics/indexbioethics.phpThe petition is located at:http://www.petitiononline.com/emilio16/petition.html
There is also coverage on CNN at http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/04/10/baby.care.ap/
Case Puts Texas Futile-Treatment Law Under a Microscope
Statute Allows for Deadline on Care
By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 11, 2007; p. A03
AUSTIN, April 10 -- A 17-month-old deaf, blind and terminally ill child on life support is the latest focus in an emotional fight against a Texas law that allows hospitals to withdraw care when a patient's ongoing treatment is declared "medically futile."Since Dec. 28, baby Emilio Gonzales has spent his days in a pediatric intensive care unit, mostly asleep from the powerful drugs he is administered, and breathing with the help of a respirator. Children's Hospital here declared his case hopeless last month and gave his mother 10 days, as legally required, to find another facility to take the baby.
That deadline, extended once already, was due to expire Wednesday, at which time the hospital was to shut off Emilio's respirator. Without the machine, Emilio would die within minutes or hours, hospital officials have said.But the child's mother, Catarina Gonzales, 23, and lawyers representing a coalition of state and national disability rights advocates and groups that favor prolonging life persuaded a Travis County judge Tuesday to force the hospital to maintain Emilio's care while the search for a facility to accept him continues. The group's attempt last week to persuade a federal judge to intervene in the case failed.County Probate Judge Guy Herman appointed a guardian ad litem, or attorney, to represent Emilio's interests and issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Children's Hospital from removing life-sustaining care from the child.
He set an April 19 hearing on the mother's and lawyers' request for a temporary injunction against the hospital.
Here is an article talking about the issue from another perspective-- the rights of the hospital to decide if a life is worth using their resources for...
April 9, 2007, 2:23PM
Unusual Texas law at center of fight over baby's life
By KELLEY SHANNON
Associated Press Writer © 2007
The Associated Press AUSTIN -
As 17-month-old Emilio Gonzales lies in a hospital, hooked up to tubes to help him breathe and eat, his mother holds him close and cherishes every movement.Catarina Gonzales knows her baby is terminally ill and that one day she'll have to let go. But it's not yet time, she and her attorneys contend in their legal clash with hospital officials who want to stop Emilio's life-sustaining treatment. An unusual Texas law signed by George W. Bush when he was governor lets the hospital make that life-or-death call.
The latest legal dispute over the law - Emilio's case - goes to court again Tuesday, the day his life support is set to end."The family has made a unified decision" to keep Emilio living through artificial means, said Joshua Carden, an attorney for the Gonzales family. "The hospital is making quality of life value judgments. That's a huge source of concern."Children's Hospital of Austin has been caring for Emilio since Dec. 28. He's believed to have Leigh's Disease, a progressive illness difficult to diagnose, according to both sides.The boy cannot breathe on his own and must have nutrition and water pumped into him. He can't swallow or gag or make purposeful movements, said Michael Regier, general counsel for the Seton Family of Hospitals, which encompasses the children's hospital.Emilio's higher order brain functions are destroyed, and secretions must be vigorously suctioned from his lungs, Regier said."The care is very aggressive and very invasive," Regier said.
Though the treatment is expensive, the hospital contends that money is not part of its decision. Emilio has health coverage through Medicaid.Doctors and a hospital ethics panel determined the treatment is causing the boy to suffer without providing any medical benefit, Regier said.So the hospital invoked the state law that allows it to end life-sustaining treatment in medically futile cases after a 10-day notice to the family. That deadline was voluntarily extended while the hospital and family tried to find another facility to care for Emilio, though as of Monday none had been located.
Children's Hospital has contacted 30 different medical facilities in Texas and elsewhere.Lawyers for the Gonzales family said they were continuing to work Monday to find another place for him. Catarina Gonzales, 23, who has no other children and cannot have more, denies that her son is non-responsive, as medical caregivers say, Carden said. She says that the boy smiles and turns his head toward voices."Every day that her son is alive and she gets to hold him and be next to him moving around is a precious day for her," Carden said.Carden is working with the family through the Alliance Defense Fund and lead attorney Jerri Ward, who has represented other Texans in similar disputes with hospitals over life-sustaining treatment.
The 1999 Texas law is increasingly under fire from patient advocates, disability rights groups and Texas Right to Life, best known for its anti-abortion efforts.Those varying interests want to change the so-called futile care law to eliminate the 10-day provision for cutting off life support because they say it's not enough time to transfer a critically ill person to another facility. A state Senate committee plans to hear testimony on proposed changes to the law Thursday.
The powerful Texas Hospital Association and other medical organizations largely support the existing law and say it's not frequently used because families and doctors usually agree on the patient's treatment. Texas Right to Life, which is helping the Gonzales family try to relocate Emilio, said it has been involved in more than two dozen similar cases over the past year and a half.Emilio's situation differs from the case of Terri Schiavo in Florida, who was in a persistent vegetative state and at the center of a legal dispute over whether to remove her feeding tube. In that case, family members disagreed with each other about the course of treatment. Schiavo died after her tube was removed in 2005.
Texas is one of the few states with a timetable allowing hospitals to decide to end life-sustaining treatment, according to studies cited by activist groups. In Emilio Gonzales' case, attorneys for both the family and the hospital say the boy would likely die soon after his ventilator is shut down.Last week, a federal judge refused to intervene and left it to the state court where a lawsuit was pending that seeks to declare the Texas futile care law unconstitutional.
What is immediately at stake before an Austin judge Tuesday is whether a temporary restraining order is granted prohibiting Emilio's life support from being cut off by the end of the day."We feel that the original decision is right, and it's time to proceed," said Regier, the hospital's lawyer.If the hospital is allowed to go forward, the life support equipment would likely be turned off during the day Wednesday when the family can be present and have the aid of social workers and chaplains, he said.Carden argues that Emilio's death by asphyxiation would be painful. He said the law prevents hospital workers from even giving the boy the drugs death row inmates receive to help them as they are executed by lethal injection."It's not like he'll just drift quietly off," he said.