Thursday, March 22, 2007

Restraining Order Gives Disabled Child Emilio 19 More Days of Life at Catholic Hospital

Little Emilio and his family need our prayers! May God grant them all the graces they need in this delicate time of trial!
Deacon John

By Hilary White

AUSTIN, March 22, 2007 ( - Emilio Gonzales has been given a reprieve by a restraining order to prevent a Catholic hospital from removing his respirator in ten days, as planned. Officials at the hospital have agreed to continue his care until at least April 10.

The hospital's decision came after Emilio's mother, Catarina Gonzales filed a restraining order to require the hospital to continue her infant son's treatment, which consists of a respirator and feeding tube. She hopes the extra time will be sufficient to find another hospital willing to continue Emilio's care but so far facilities in Texas, Oklahoma, California and New York have all turned down her requests.

Gonzales was told by the Brackenridge Children's Hospital of Austin, March 12, that she had ten days to find another care facility or they would turn off Emilio's respirator. Brackenridge is part of the Seton Catholic health care system.

Doctors have said that that Emilio's treatment is "medically inappropriate" although they have admitted that without the assisted breathing and nutrition and hydration, the child, who was born blind and deaf and suffers from Leigh's Disease, would die within days.

"This care is medically inappropriate," said committee member Michael Regier. "The aggressive care that this infant is receiving is causing suffering, harm to the infant and without clinical benefit, and that should be discontinued."

Texas is one of two states with a "futile care" law that allows physicians to discontinue life-saving treatment without the consent of patients. Texas legislators are currently considering changing the law to require medical facilities to maintain such treatment until families can find alternate care arrangements.

Leigh's disease is 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. Sufferers can live as long as may live to be 6 or 7 years of age. Some have survived to their mid-teenage years. Emilio is now 16 months old.

"I'm scared, because I don't want to lose my son, because I know he's moving," said Catarina. "I wish people could see him."

"My biggest concern is the lack of time, which has always been my concern with this particular statute, because 10 days is simply not enough time in a situation like this to find another transfer," said Catarina's attorney, Jerri Ward told KXAN, a local NBC news affiliate.

If the hospital does not grant an extension, the next step is a court hearing Wednesday.

Read previous coverage: Mother Given 10 Days to Find New Hospital For Sick Child or Hospital Will Remove Respirator