Doctors Want to Make Texas Woman the Next Terri Schiavo, Family Protests

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 28, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctors Want to Make Texas Woman the Next Terri Schiavo, Family Protests Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 28, 2006

Austin, TX ( — Doctors in Austin, Texas are looking to make a Vietnamese woman the next Terri Schiavo. They have decided to stop providing the woman with any medical treatment claiming she is in a persistent vegetative state. The family of Lang Yen Thi Vo is protesting the decision and wants to find another facility willing to take her.

Vo’s family disputes the contention that she is in a PVS state and say the 63 year-old woman has been responsive to them.

North Austin Medical Center had originally given Vo’s family only until Saturday to find a place to take her because it was no longer willing to allow Vo to stay there.

Now they have until June 5 to transfer Vo to another medical facility or NAMC will stop providing Vo any life-sustaining medical treatment.

According to the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, NAMC officials say they were relying on a 1999 Texas law that allows doctors to stop giving a patient care in supposedly futile cases and give the family 10 days notice.

NAMC officials told Vo’s family and their attorney, Jerri Ward, that it found a hospice in Illinois that would accept her transfer, but her family worries she is too weak to make such a long trip and that having her so far from home would pose problems.

"That would be a last resort," LoAnn Trinh, Vo’s daughter, told the Austin newspaper.

Ward filed a petition in a local court Thursday asking for more time for the family to find a medical facility closer to Austin, but a hearing on the request was canceled when NAMC stepped in and agreed to allow the family until June to do that.

Ward told the newspaper the agreement for more time is "very good news" but she said a lawsuit may be needed to challenge the statute saying 10 days notice to make other arrangements for a loved one denied treatment is "pitiful."

Trinh indicated that her mother had said she wanted to receive lifesaving medical treatment in such a case as she is in now. She is a doctor and disputes the PVS claim saying that nurses and doctors may report no response because she only speaks Vietnamese, not English.

"This is not what mom wants, this is not what father wants and this is not what the family wants," Trinh said. "She is not brain dead. . . . To pull someone off life support would be cruel and unusual."

Trinh told the Statesman that she thinks financial aspects of her mother’s case are provoking the decisions. Vo’s Medicare and Medicaid benefits will soon run out.

Ward is also representing the family of Andrea Clark, another patient in a similar situation, though the hospital in that case, St. Luke’s Episcopal, has not agreed to an extension. It also found a hospice in Illinois willing to accept the transfer.

She told the newspaper that once doctors have made the decision that a patient is beyond hope, it’s difficult to find another medical facility willing to accept a transfer.