Mother Given 10 Days to Find New Hospital For Sick Child or Hospital Will Remove Respirator

By Meg Jalsevac

  AUSTIN, TX, March 21, 2007 ( – A hospital ethics committee at Brackenridge Children’s Hospital of Austin, TX, a Catholic run hospital in the Seton Healthcare System, yesterday notified Catarina Gonzales, a young mother of a very sick child that, unless she can arrange to have her child transferred to another medical facility within 10 days, they will remove the respirator that the child relies on to breath.

  Emilio Gonzales was born 16 months ago blind and deaf.  Though very difficult to definitively diagnose, doctors have said that Emilio also suffers from Leigh’s Disease, an incurable neurometabolic disorder that affects the central nervous system leading to loss of motor control and frequently to eventual respiratory, kidney and heart failure.  Victims of the disease in its severest form usually have a life expectancy of a few years although some individuals have lived to early teens. 

  Emilio has been hospitalized for the past three months on a feeding tube and respirator.  His mother, a single mother, has kept a vigil by his bedside – quitting her job and dropping out of school to be with him.  Catarina believes in miracles but is aware that Leigh’s Disease will probably eventually take the life of her little child.  She disagrees that the hospital should be allowed to decide when that will be.
  She says, “He is my only one and I cannot afford to lose him. I know he’s going to die because of Leigh’s Disease. I accept that. But to take him, that’s mainly playing God because you are saying who lives and who dies.” 

  Catarina says that Emilio responds to her while doctors claim that he is comatose and near death with no hope of recovery.  Catarina said, "It’s really hard because you see your son moving, and you see him opening his eyes."  She has vowed to do everything in her power to find an alternate healthcare facility – even if it means moving the sick child out of state. 

  Under the “Futile Care Law”, Texas being one of only two states to have such a law, medical personnel may decide to withdraw vital medical treatment from a terminally ill patient regardless of the patient’s wishes.  Not Dead Yet, a group dedicated to fighting euthanasia and protecting disabled individuals from laws such as the above mentioned Texas law says, “Essentially, futile care policies provide that a physician may overrule a patient or their authorized decision-maker in denying wanted life-sustaining treatment. Futile care policies do not generally require that the treatment be objectively futile, but allow doctors to use subjective criteria such as quality of life judgments and even economic factors as grounds for denying treatment.”

  Emilio is on Medicaid and many critics have asserted that individuals like him are more likely to be euthanized in order to prevent them from being a drain on the system.  Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, has written to ask Texas Governor Rick Perry to order a “stay of execution” for little Emilio saying, “If you need reasons other than simple humanity, here’s one that might help: Since Emilio is a Medicaid recipient, he falls under the protections afforded by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Removal of his ventilator - against the express wishes of his mother - violates his civil rights underSection 504.”  Coleman complained that should the hospital be allowed to withdraw the respirator from Emilio, he will have received fewer protections from the state of Texas than a death row inmate.

  Emilio’s doctors, members of the Pediatric Physicians Alliance of Central Texas, and Catarina have disagreed numerous times regarding Emilio’s treatment.   They assert that she continually changes her mind regarding her son’s treatment while she has accused the doctors of withdrawing treatment without her consent and not adequately explaining their decisions about her son.  An ethics committee meeting in February reviewed Emilio’s case and doctors agreed to continue treating Emilio until Catarina could find another hospital to transfer him to or until he was strong enough to return home.

  A second ethics committee meeting last Friday reevaluated the case and determined, "The current aggressive treatment plan for Emilio amounts to a nearly constant assault on Emilio’s fundamental human dignity, and with little, if any, corresponding benefit to Emilio."

  The same ethics committee that determined that Emilio’s life was not worth living also recommended that spiritual and pastoral care be provided to help his mother and family cope with their grief.

  The “Futile Care Law” is currently under review in the Texas legislature.

  Emails and updates are swirling across the country to garner support for little Emilio Gonzales and to voice encouragement to act to anyone who might have the opportunity or authority to sway the hospital’s decision.  Advocate groups for the disabled and pro-life groups have also joined forces to campaign for Emilio’s right to life.  

  To respectfully contact:

  Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond
  Bishop of Austin
  Contact: Rick Bologna
  Location: Chancery
  P.O Box 13327 1600 N. Congress
  Austin, TX 78701

  Children’s Hospital of Austin
  One Children’s Place
  1400 North IH 35
  Austin, TX 78701

  Austin Mayor’s Committee for People with Disability
  (512) 974-2292

  Office of the Governor – Rick Perry
  P.O. Box 12428,
  Austin, Texas 78711
  Phone: (512) 463-2000
  Citizen’s Opinion Hotline: 1-800-252-9600

FREE pro-life and pro-family news.

Stay up-to-date on the issues you care about the most. Sign up today!

Select Your Edition:

You can make a difference!

Can you donate today?

Share this article