Thursday, April 05, 2007

“Little Emilio” in trouble in Texas

From an April 5, 2007, press release from The Alliance Defense Fund:

Federal judge refuses to grant temporary restraining order to save life of “Little Emilio” in Texas

Hospital plans to cease boy’s treatments on April 10; federal judge to take matter under advisement, state court judge to hear case Tuesday

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge decided Wednesday not to grant a temporary restraining order filed by an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney which would have allowed a toddler to continue to receive medical treatment while his case moves forward in court. The judge did, however, say he will take the matter under advisement pending the outcome of the state court hearing set for Tuesday. In March, an “ethics” committee at the Children’s Hospital of Austin deemed the child’s life “futile” and voted to end his treatments. Without the treatments, the boy, named Emilio, will likely die in a matter of hours.

“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,” said Joshua Carden, the ADF-allied attorney working on the case, Gonzales v. Children’s Hospital of Austin, along with lead counsel Jerri Ward. “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.”

Though 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. Due to litigation, the 10-day window in Emilio’s case was extended until April 10; however, because of hospital bureaucracy and extensive paperwork, a successful transfer to another hospital is unlikely to occur in time to save Emilio’s life. A state probate hearing on this case is scheduled to take place at the Travis County Courthouse on Tuesday--the same day the hospital plans to cease giving Emilio his treatments.

An outside nurse reviewing Emilio’s records noticed that the hospital had removed the boy’s vitamin treatments during the initial 10-day period, bringing up concerns among some that the hospital could be rushing to end the toddler’s life to avoid discovery of malpractice in the boy’s treatment.

“People who could profit from an innocent person’s death should not get to decide when it occurs. Whatever the hospital’s motives are for pushing to end Emilio’s treatment, a child’s life outweighs all other concerns--whether it’s to cut costs, or for convenience, or something else,” said Carden. “And furthermore, the twisted state law that allows hospitals to exterminate disabled children over their parents’ wishes needs to be changed.”

3 comments: said...

The vitamin treatments are useless unless he has a certain form of Leigh's syndrome. There's dozens of genetic defects that can affect the mitochondria - and probably more than we can identify.

The little boy had very bad lungs for a while. The high pressures of the ventilator caused leaks of air from the lungs several times. When the pressures are high, no one can put in a tracheotomy because it, too would leak and fail to heal.

Some of the emails that I've seen lately say that the pressures or at least the oxygen concentrations needed are going down. One even said there are attempts to wean Emilio from the ventilator. If so, things may change rapidly.

I can't understand the willingness to believe the worst and fail to see the good in this case, throughout March.

There's more at my blog,

Kathryn Judson said...

Dear LifeEthics, As you say at your blog, ""Bioethics" is often used to justify who we can kill and enslave by designating them as not human-enough to possess the basic human right not to be killed or enslaved."

I'm afraid I've reached the point where I assume 'bioethics' committees lean toward 'mercy killings' unless I'm given a reason to believe otherwise. If this isn't a case of that, there's still the problem that parents and patients so often seem to lose control of not only their treatment but their very lives once they get under hospital care. I'd much rather doctors who think there's nothing else they can do wouldn't be so quick to prescribe death, as it were. I'd bet that if more doctors were willing to admit limits to what they could do -- and step out of the way when they personally can't help anymore -- instead of deciding that a patient's life had become not worth living and therefore 'ought to be ended', we wouldn't have nearly the battles we do have these days, especially since so many doctors seem determined to have their way, regardless of patient or family wishes, and courts have been known to back them up.

I'm not playing off of theory here. Two different doctors have broached the subject of assisted suicide with a loved one of mine, who is disabled, but not dying, and who is actually doing amazingly well given the circumstances. It has, sadly, become a matter of life and death which doctor you consult, not just because of differences in competence, but because some of them are willing to decide that you'd be better off dead and, furthermore, nature isn't doing the job fast enough (in their opinion).

This is not a good situation. To put it mildly.

And it makes it impossible to trust doctors like I used to.

I haven't been following the Emilio case (we've had a few family emergencies lately, so I haven't been properly following any news), but ADF has a good track record overall and I felt it worth getting the word out, based on their reputation. But I'm certainly willing to let your comments stand, in case there is more to the situation than I understood. Thanks for taking the time to write. said...

The good thing is that the Ethics Committee report, including the testimony of several doctors is available on the internet at