by Steven Ertelt
March 21, 2007
Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — A Texas hospital has agreed to care for a 16-month old baby who has become the subject of national attention because doctors there have given up on providing him with appropriate medical care. Emilio Gonzales is plagued by Leigh’s disease, an incurable disorder that causes the breakdown of the central nervous system.
Doctors at the Brackenridge Children’s Hospital decided to remove Emilio from life support leaving his mother Catarina with little hope.
That’s because a much-disputed Texas futile care law gives families just 10 days to find a facility that will care for their loved ones.
Yesterday, officials at Brackenridge agreed to keep Emilio until at least April 10, giving Catarina more time to find a facility that will treat her son rather than condemn him to death.
The decision came after attorney Jerri Ward asked for a restraining order from a local judge to keep the hospital from pulling the plug on the little boy. Physicians at the hospital had planned to end his life on Friday.
"It’s very good news because it give us more time," Ward told AP.
Catarina also appeared at the state capitol with lawmakers who are considering a bill to change the futile care law and require medical facilities to keep lifesaving medical treatment in place while families find another hospital to care for their loved ones.
However, hospitals in Texas, Oklahoma, California and New York have all turned down taking Emilio as a patient and Michael Regier, a Seton Hospital Network spokesman, says the medical center tried to find other places without success.
"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.
Pro-life advocates tell LifeNews.com that they are working to assist the Gonzales family in finding a new facility.
"Texas Right to Life continues to work with Catarina and her attorneys very closely," director Elizabeth Graham said. She urged pro-life advocates with tips on medical centers or physicians to call her group to help.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Brian Hughes, a Republican, said he was "shocked" to learn that "even if you have an advanced directive (living will) saying you don’t want medical care withheld, and even if your family agrees, the hospital can still override that decision and pull the plug."
"As far as we can tell, only one other state has a law that extreme, and that’s Virginia. This law allows for some real abuses," he said.
He spoke to the Tyler newspaper about the bill he’s working on.
"This bill recognizes the fundamental right to life of the patients," said Hughes. "If the question is whether this life should be continued, it should be answered by the families."
The Leigh’s disease will eventually take Emilio’s life, but the youngster is still alive and his mother believes he’s entitled to appropriate medical care and attention until then.
"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."
Ward 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.
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."
You can express your views in this case by calling Brackenridge Children’s Hospital in Austin at 512-324-8000.