FORT WORTH, Texas, August 22, 2012 ( – The fate of a 12-year-old boy injured by a gunshot to the head is in dispute after his mother, who is refusing to let doctors remove the boy’s organs for donation, had discovered that his food and water supply had been stopped.

The boy, Zach McDaniel, suffered a severe head injury two weeks ago when he was caught in the crossfire of an alleged drug dispute in Abilene, Texas. He was placed on life support under heavy sedation at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

The case has garnered an outpouring of support by the local community: two days after McDaniel’s surgery, hundreds gathered in Anson, Texas, to hold a prayer vigil for the boy’s healing. Christopher Mack of Abilene, the suspected shooter, remains in jail under a combined $300,000 bail.


McDaniel has been heavily sedated and reportedly has yet to regain consciousness, but was able to breathe on his own when the ventilator was removed.

Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago told that Cook doctors had begun pressuring McDaniel’s family to consider allowing the boy’s organs to be removed only hours after his brain surgery ended. But it was when Zach’s family was told in a possible miscommunication that part of his brain was missing – a fact later contradicted by brain imagery – that they became suspicious, Seago said, and “started slowing down the organ donation conversation.”

“They realized, something’s not right here,” said Seago. He said doctors at one point described the boy as in a “persistent vegetative state,” a term the activist said “doesn’t really mean much without the details.”

Rachel Bohannon of Texas Right to Life said her group was first contacted by Zach’s mother for help when she learned last Thursday that doctors had placed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in the boy’s medical files and stopped giving him food and water.

Bohannon told LSN that doctors removed the DNR and restored McDaniel’s food and water at his mother’s request, but reinforced that they would not provide treatment for the boy.

Unlike ventilation, food and water is considered by conservative ethical standards to be ordinary care, as long as such measures don’t cause a patient harm. It was unclear how long McDaniel had gone without food or water. Terri Schiavo, a brain injury patient who famously succumbed to dehydration after a judge ordered her feeding tube removed in 2005, survived thirteen days without water.

Seago said Texas law would protect the hospital in removing even food and water from the patient, if given approval by an ethics committee and notification of the family ten days prior. Seago said his attempts to meet informally with the hospital have been unsuccessful.

Cook Children’s Medical Center did not return a call seeking for comment from LSN Thursday morning.

McDaniel has reportedly been moved to Hendricks Medical Center in Abilene, where a neurologist is expected to perform more tests on the boy’s brain. Seago said the family was distressed that Cook refused to do further tests, and argued that McDaniel’s independence from a ventilator or other life support except a feeding tube indicated significant brain function.



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