Judge Orders Baby Kept on Life-Support - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/11/07 - Austin, Texas

Judge Orders Baby Kept on Life-Support

A judge Tuesday granted a family's request to keep their critically ill baby alive, ruling that the boy should not be removed from life-support equipment as the hospital had planned.

Probate Judge Guy Herman set a hearing for April 19 for both sides to present evidence in the case of 17-month-old Emilio Gonzales.

Children's Hospital of Austin has been caring for Emilio since December and says the effort is futile and the child is suffering without medical benefit. It invoked a state law that allows hospitals to end life-sustaining treatment in such cases with 10 days notice to the family.

Emilio's mother, Catarina Gonzales, 23, doesn't believe her only son is nonresponsive and says the boy smiles and turns his head toward voices.

"I feel very relieved because we have more time," Jerri Ward, an attorney for the Gonzales family, said after the ruling.

Emilio has health coverage through Medicaid, and the hospital contends money is not part of its decision.

Doctors and a hospital ethics panel determined the treatment is causing the boy to suffer without providing any medical benefit, said Michael Regier, general counsel for the Seton Family of Hospitals, which includes the children's hospital.

The boy is believed to have Leigh's Disease, a progressive illness difficult to diagnose. He cannot breathe on his own, must have nutrition and water pumped into him, and can't swallow or make purposeful movements, Regier said. He said Emilio's higher order brain functions are destroyed.

The boy's family has had difficulty finding another medical facility that will care for the boy, though Gonzales said Tuesday they had several promising leads.

The Legislature, meanwhile, is considering changing the futile care law.

AP and/or ABC material provided by ABC NEWSONE. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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