A mother's desire to keep treating her terminally-ill 17-month-old son has thrown a new spotlight on a Texas law allowing hospitals to stop providing "medically futile" care. Working with a coalition of disability rights advocates and groups that seek to prolong life, Catarina Gonzales hopes to force Austin-based Children's Hospital to keep treating her son Emilio until she finds another facility to take him. Gonzales wants Emilio--who suffers from Leigh's disease--to get a tracheotomy and a feeding tube so he can live out his life either at home or in another facility. Children's Hospital, on the other hand, says that continuing treatment is prolonging the child's suffering. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the hospital from removing life-sustaining care, and will hold a hearing on the order on April 19th.
Texas law allows hospitals to discontinue care within a given time frame if the facility's ethics committee considers the care to be of no benefit. Patients' families or guardians must be allowed to participate in the committee meeting, and the hospital must give families 10 days to find another facility willing to accept the dying patient. Once the 10 days have passed, however, the hospital may withdraw treatment. To date, hospitals have withdrawn care at least 27 times in instances where the family disagreed with a medical futility decision.
To learn more about the controversy:
- read this piece from The Washington Post