Judge Extends Treatment for Disabled Baby Emilio Gonzales Until Court Hearing

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 10, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Judge Extends Treatment for Disabled Baby Emilio Gonzales Until Court Hearing Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 10
, 2007

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — A judge on Tuesday approved a request from the family of Emilio Gonzales requiring a hospital to continue treating the disabled boy. Officials at Brackenridge Children’s Hospital had decided to remove him from life support under a law that gives families just 10 days to find another medial facility that will provide care.

Gonzales is plagued by Leigh’s disease, an incurable disorder that causes the breakdown of the central nervous system. Without appropriate medical care, he could die within hours.

Children’s Hospital agreed to care for the 17-month old boy until April 10 and would then remove life support and stop treating him.

But Travis County Probate Court Judge Guy Herman delayed that action and set up an April 19 hearing for both sides to argue their case in court.

Jerri Ward, an attorney for the Gonzales family, told the Associated Press she was "very relieved because we have more time" to try to save the baby’s life.

Raimundo Rojas, the Hispanic outreach director for the National Right to Life Committee, which is helping Gonzales and his family, applauded the decision but said Emilio’s life still hangs in the balance.

"Judge Herman offered Emilio a reprieve today, but nine days go by very quickly and he will again face a very painful death from asphyxiation," he told LifeNews.com.

"The Texas futile care law is not in the public’s best interest because it gives ethics committees the power to play God, and usually those who suffer from it are the less fortunate," he explained. "Emilio needs to be saved, but the law must be changed or we will continue to have Emilios for years to come."

Catarina Gonzales, the boy’s mother, has been working with pro-life groups and the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation to find another medical facility that would care for Emilio. They have a few promising leads, but have not been able to secure a new location.

Hospitals in Texas, Oklahoma, California and New York have all turned down taking Emilio as a patient and Michael Regier, a Children’s Hospital spokesman, says the medical center tried to find other places without success.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life law firm, are working with Ward and had asked for a restraining order that would have allowed the toddler to continue to receive medical treatment while his case moves forward in court.

That request was denied last week by another judge.

Joshua Carden, and ADF-allied attorney working on the case, Gonzales v. Children’s Hospital of Austin, told LifeNews.com last week that “The Children’s Hospital of Austin should do the right thing, and that is to make sure little Emilio gets the treatment he needs to live."

“Instead, the hospital has betrayed this little boy by subjecting him to ‘death by vote.’ We are very disappointed that the court today refused to stop this insanity," he told LifeNews.com in a statement.

Pro-life advocates helping the Gonzales family are troubled that doctors are not certain in their diagnosis. They believe Emilio has Leigh’s Disease, a condition that is treated primarily through vitamin therapy. But on March 12, a hospital ethics committee voted behind closed doors to end Emilio’s treatment, deeming his life “futile.”

Under Texas law, a hospital is required to wait only 10 days before discontinuing treatment, to allow for a transfer to another hospital willing to admit the patient. Legislators are looking at revising or dropping the law entirely.

Catarina has appeared at the state capitol with lawmakers supporting a change and a hearing on a bill is slated for Thursday.

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.