Once again a fragile and infinitely precious innocent life hangs in the balance, as a mother is pitted against the medical establishment in a battle for the life of her little boy.
Catarina Gonzales, 23 and single, is fighting to save the life of her son, Emilio, who is 17 months old and requires vitamin and respiratory therapy with a ventilator to sustain his life. Although his diagnosis is still not definitive, his doctors believe he has Leigh’s disease, a condition that is life-threatening.
The ethics committee at the facility currently treating Emilio has declared Emilio’s case “futile,” a decision which marks Emilio for death unless another hospital will agree to take him on transfer. The deadline by which to find another facility is Tuesday, April 10th.
Texas law allows hospitals to deny patients any and all forms of life-sustaining treatment against their wishes, or in the case of children, against the wishes of their parents or legal guardians—after providing the patient and/or family ten days notice. Withdrawal includes food and water via a feeding tube, antibiotics, ventilators and other forms of life-saving intervention. If a transfer cannot be found by April 10, the hospital will remove Emilio’s ventilator, an action which will very likely result in his death.
“This is so sad,” says Suzanne Vitadamo, sister of Terri Schindler Schiavo. “That a hospital ‘ethics’ committee would vote to end the life of a child against his mother’s wishes is unbelievable, especially since Emilio’s condition has actually shown some improvement over the past several weeks.”
Vitadamo spoke recently with a mother from Madison, Wisconsin, whose seven-year-old daughter has a mitochondrial disease similar to the one Emilio is suspected of having. “This little girl was diagnosed as being in a so-called persistent vegetative state for the first three years of her life,” Vitadamo says. “Her mother researched the disease and learned that hyperbaric oxygen treatment had shown some success in treating the condition. Today the once fragile little girl now attends school, against all odds and much to the amazement of doctors who said she would not even live past the age of three.”
Although there is no guarantee that similar treatment would produce such results in Emilio’s case, there is hope. “We are hoping that the hospital will grant an additional extension in Emilio’s case,” Vitadamo says, “we encourage them to continue treating this little boy, making every effort to sustain his life for as long as is needed, while we pursue a facility for transfer and possibly even treatment that could save him. It is time for Texas hospitals to start erring on the side of LIFE.”
About the Schindler Family: Mary and Robert Schindler as well as Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo and Bobby Schindler now work for The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation in St. Petersburg, Florida, an organization dedicated to promoting the Culture of Life, embracing the true meaning of compassion by opposing the practice of euthanasia.
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