Should Doctors Be Able To Pull The Plug? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

05/23/07-Tyler

Should Doctors Be Able To Pull The Plug?

For five months, little Emilio Gonzales was in an Austin hospital on life support.  Doctors argued that the 19-month-old boy's nervous system collapse was irreversible. 

The mother disagreed, but found herself up against a little known state law that actually allows doctors to stop treating a patient they feel is beyond saving -- even if the family wants to go on.

"He's watching me from up, from heaven, and I'm trying to be strong," says mother Catarina Gonzales.  She has only memories now to ease her pain.  Doctors told her Emilio's treatment for Leigh's Disease would only prolong his pain.

She said no.

"And a lot of people were judging me for it," she said.

The law in Texas is on the doctors' side. They can cease care after ten days, if a patient they say is beyond help, isn't transferred to another willing facility.

"Ultimately, it is something that thoroughly needs to be discussed with the family and the physician that is tending the patient," says John Moore, spokesman for Trinity Mother Frances Health System in Tyler.  Moore says a situation like this has never happened there.

"We try to work with the families to do what's best for the patient. We try to keep the dignity of the patient in mind along with the dignity of the families," he explained.

But if a family never accepted the medical decision, the law remains.

"She did not want that.  That's understandable," says Father Bill Palmer of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler.  He says sometimes it is right to let go , and to accept the limits of human intervention.

"Coming to that conclusion that it is time, it is not taking into one's hands the decision of life and death, but a way of trusting to God -- of commending a loved one to God," he says.

Emilio died Saturday morning, still on life support.  His heart just stopped beating.  His mother says she was right.

"You have to fight for what you have, and I had Emilio," Gonzales said.

She won't stop asking for families to have the choice.   There is a Senate bill being considered now that would give families more time to move a loved one to another facility.

Catarina Gonzales is considering filing suit.  She believes letting doctors decide on their own to stop care is unconstitutional.

Morgan Palmer, reporting, morganpalmer@kltv.com

 

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