Texas Baby’s Mother Fights for Son’s Life After Doctors Give Up Hope

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 19, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Texas Baby’s Mother Fights for Son’s Life After Doctors Give Up Hope Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 19
, 2007

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — A 23 year old single mother in Texas is holding on to hope that she can find another medical facility who will take her disabled son for treatment after doctors at an Austin hospital gave up hope. The case is the latest in Texas to involve a futile care law that gives families just 10 days to find a facility that will care for their loved ones.

Catarina Gonzales’ son Emilio is just 16 months old but he is plagued by Leigh’s disease, an incurable disorder that causes the breakdown of the central nervous system.

The disease will inevitably take his life, but the youngster is still alive and his mother believes he’s entitled to appropriate medical care and attention until then.

However, doctors at the Brackenridge Children’s Hospital are planning to take Emilio off of life support and now Gonzales has just 10 days under state law to find a facility to care for her baby boy before the hospital makes the final decision.

"Some days he will hear you, some days he won’t," she told KENS-TV about her son’s condition. "He’s not completely brain dead."

To help her case, Gonzales has turned to attorney Jerri Ward, who has been instrumental in helping families of patients such as Andrea Clark who have battled the futile care law.

"The fact of this matter is, even if this progressive disease will cause him eventually to die … He’s not dead yet. Dying is not being dead," Ward told the television station.

However, even with Ward’s assistance, hospitals in Texas, Oklahoma, California and New York have all turned down taking Emilio as a patient.

Michael Regier, a Seton Hospital Network spokesman, defended the hospital’s ethics board’s decision to take Emilio off of life support.

"We have worked very hard with hospitals in Texas and hospitals out of state and New York, on the West Coast, not only to say, ‘Would you take a transfer of Emilio with this kind of condition?’ but also, ‘Are there other things we haven’t done?’" he told KENS.

Meanwhile, Melanie Childlers, one of Andrea Clark’s sisters, has gotten involved with the Gonzales case and says she thinks an in-house group of physicians at Brackenridge, called the Pediatric Physicians Alliance of Central Texas, wants Emilio to die.

She says there is no definitive test for Leigh’s disease, that the doctors diagnosed Emilio based on symptoms alone, and that the 10 day period to transfer Emilio expires Friday.

She also says doctors at the hospital decided to take him off of the thiamin treatment normally used in patients with the disease. They resumed it only when Ward insisted that they put him back on the treatment.

"These children can live, and often do live, to be about six or seven years of age," Childers said. "This child is sixteen months old and these physicians have decided not to give him a chance at the rest of his life, despite his family’s wishes to the contrary."
Meanwhile, Catarina said about the struggle it’s been to care for her son, "Right now, I’m struggling. I quit school for now, quit my job."

She’s accepted that Emilio will eventually die and she will not have a normal life with her child the way most parents expect with their newborns.

"I’m not going to take him to the movies. I’m not going to be able to take him out to eat … see him go to his first prom," Catarina said. "It’s going to be hard for me and I don’t want to see [anybody] else going through this."

You can express your views in this case by calling Brackenridge Children’s Hospital in Austin at 512-324-8000.