Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

March 21, 2005

Baby pulled off ventilator over mother’s objections

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:40 pm

Folks, it’s not just Terri — and it’s not just when family members disagree over what to do.

Last week, a hospital pulled a breathing tube from a six-month-old, conscious baby, against the objections of the baby’s mother.

Story here:

The baby wore a cute blue outfit with a teddy bear covering his bottom. The 17-pound, 6-month-old boy wiggled with eyes open and smacked his lips, according to his mother.

Then at 2 p.m. today, a medical staffer at Texas Children’s Hospital gently removed the breathing tube that had kept Sun Hudson alive since his Sept. 25 birth. Cradled by his mother, he took a few breaths, and died.

“I talked to him, I told him that I loved him. Inside of me, my son is still alive,” Wanda Hudson told reporters afterward. “This hospital was considered a miracle hospital. When it came to my son, they gave up in six months …. They made a terrible mistake.”

And by the way, the hospital refused to allow the mother to take her case to the media:

The hospital’s description of Sun — that he was motionless and sedated for comfort — has differed sharply from the mother’s. Since February, the hospital has blocked the media from accepting Hudson’s invitation to see the baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, citing patient privacy concerns. [This is total bunk -- the federal HIPPA law gives the parent the right to waive privacy for a minor and insist that the hospital comply. They jsut didn't want any evidence to get out showing the baby was actually responsive. --DR]

“I wanted y’all to see my son for yourself,” Hudson told reporters. “So you could see he was actually moving around. He was conscious.”

This too was completely “legal” — meaning, on the orders of a judge, in compliance with a Texas law that allows hospitals to “remove life-sustaining care” (i.e., kill) patients even if the patient and his/her family objects. The baby was not brain-dead, or any other kind of dead.

On Feb. 16, Harris County Probate Court Judge William C. McCulloch made the landmark decision to lift restrictions preventing Texas Children’s from discontinuing care. However, an emergency appeal by Hudson’s attorney, Mario Caballero, and a procedural error on McCulloch’s part prevented the hospital from acting for four more weeks.

Texas law allows hospitals can discontinue life sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree. A doctor’s recommendation must be approved by a hospital’s ethics committee, and the family must be given 10 days from written notice of the decision to try and locate another facility for the patient.

Imagine this: You have (say) a car accident. You are sitting in a hospital. Your spouse, or parent, or child comes to visit and says, “We just got a letter from the hospital’s lawyers. The hospital has decided to stop treating you and let you die. We have 10 days to find you another hospital, and you have to survive the move there — and by the way, the 10 days started when they wrote the letter three days ago.”

Meanwhile, in most areas hospitals have overlapping management (here in Northern Virginia, all the hospitals are owned and run by the same hospital, so obviously none would take a pateint rejected by another).

In Terri Schiavo’s case, everyone is arguing over whether her estranged husband has the right to pull the tube against her parents’ objections. But it’s quite possible that wouldn’t matter, since in some cases, the hospital can pull the tube over all the relatives’ objections!

(Hat tip: Clayton Cramer, who cites Mark Kleiman.)

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