By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

FORT WORTH, TEXAS, May 22, 2008 ( – A Peruvian man whose American doctors reportedly sought to starve and dehydrate him to death was spared Wednesday after the family alerted the Peruvian media and a pro-life Texas attorney intervened in the case.

According to Peruvian media reports, Jesus Sanchez, 56, had been in a coma for over five months in John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, after suffering a heart attack after a soccer game.

After the hospital’s board of ethics reviewed his case, his condition was pronounced “irreversible”. The hospital announced that it would deprive Sanchez of food and fluids until he died, reported the Peruvian publication El Comercio. His starvation and dehydration would begin within ten days if a transfer could not be arranged to another hospital.

However, according to Lucio Portilla of the Peruvian National Institute of Neurological Sciences, Sanchez was regaining consciousness, and was blinking and swallowing. He told Radio Programs of Peru (RPP) that his hospital was “100%” certain of its willingness to receive Sanchez and care for him.

Although Sanchez and his two children were living in the United States legally, Sanchez had no access to Medicare, and his children had no way to pay for a medical evacuation to Peru, which could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000.

“Since my father became ill I have had to work at night and abandon my pre-university studies. My sister also works in a clothing factory. Despite the effort we don’t have the ability to save the $50,000 to rent an air ambulance to return my father to Peru,” Jesus Sanchez told El Comercio.

After Sanchez´ wife and children made a desperate appeal through the Peruvian media only two days before the deadline for his removal, Peruvians responded generously and the family was surprised to receive $10,000 in a very short period of time. It was not sufficient for the flight, however.

Family members contacted Texas Right to Life which referred them to pro-life attorney Bill Collins, who began negotiations with the hospital’s attorney. Two Catholic organizations and one Protestant organization also intervened in the case, according to media reports.

After heavy negative coverage in the Peruvian media, protests from Peruvians living in Texas, and the intervention of Collins and other Texas pro-lifers, John Peter Smith Hospital agreed to pay for the flight, which reportedly cost $80,000.

Adam Black, Political Director of Texas Right to Life told that the State of Texas is one of only two in the United States with a “10 day law” allowing patients to be euthanized through dehydration or starvation within ten days of notifying family members of their intention to do so. If no transfer can be made to another hospital, the patient will die.

Black said that two patients have died under the terms of the law. He also said that he is aware of several cases of patients who were transferred in time and survived despite their diagnoses, and are now living normal lives.

Family members told El Comercio that they thought that the real reason the hospital wanted to euthanize Sanchez was the price of his medical care, which was estimated at $3,000 a day. Although Sanchez is a legal resident of the United States, his medical expenses are not covered by Medicaid.

“Here, there is no heart” one American attorney commented to RPP. “The problem is the cost.”

For more information about the Texas “10 Day” law:
Texas Right to Life