New York Teenager Dies After Life Support Removed in Dispute

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 4, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New York Teenager Dies After Life Support Removed in Dispute Email this article
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by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
May 4, 2005

New York, NY ( — A 13-year-old Bronx boy who was at the center of a life support dispute died last week after his parents asked doctors to take him off a respirator.

Teron Foster had recently slipped into a mysterious coma — a medical crisis that sparked a bitter feud between his family’s lawyers and officials at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

Hospital spokesman Steven Osborne said the ventilator, which had sustained Teron’s organs, was turned off at the request of his family. "Our hearts go out to the family, and we hope they will be able to find peace," Osborne told the news media.

Teron’s mother and more than 20 relatives cried as they watched his vital signs disappear on a computer screen. When his heart stopped, the attending physician told the boy’s mother, "He’s gone."

A lawyer speaking on behalf of Teron’s mother, Robert Genis, told the news media, "Heaven has another angel tonight, so when you look up in the sky and see the stars, that’s Teron."

The dispute began when two doctors told family members that Teron would be taken off life support without their consent.

"The family had difficulty reaching out and communicating after that," Genis said.

Meanwhile, Montefiore’s medical director, Gary Kalkut, said Genis’ role in the case had disrupted the normal course of counseling among doctors, social workers, and grieving family members.

At issue was whether Teron, like Terri Schiavo, could have been rehabilitated.

"The Schiavo case is the backdrop, but it is important to understand the differences between the two cases," Kalkut told the New York Times. "Teron Francis was dead and it wasn’t a question of whether he was responding or not."

Kalkut accused Genis of comparing Teron’s case with that of Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who was starved to death at the request of her estranged husband.

Both Teron and his mother were admitted to Bronx-Lebanon April 18 with similar symptoms. Teron fell into a coma after reportedly suffering headaches. Genis says the family thinks that Bronx-Lebanon’s refusal to perform a dental procedure led to his illness. But a spokesman for the hospital said hospital officials had found no connection between Teron’s dental and medical conditions.

Teron was transferred to Montefiore on April 19th at the request of Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. Doctors declared Teron brain-dead on April 21. But Justice Douglas McKeon of State Supreme Court in the Bronx granted Genis’ request for an injunction barring the hospital from taking Teron off the respirator.

Later, Genis returned to court at the request of the Francis family and asked Justice McKeon to vacate the injunction, permitting the respirator’s removal.

In court, the mother said, "My son went on a journey. He promised he would be back, but he did not return."