Many in the Houston area have seen the tragic case of Baby Nick Torres’ fight for life against Texas Children’s Hospital. His story reveals a harsh reality in Texas law. Baby Nick is 18 months old. Physicians insist he is dead based on a controversial legal notion of “brain death.” His parents have been fighting a legal battle to continue his life-sustaining treatment against the hospital’s intention to remove his ventilator.
In court filings, Texas Children’s represented that Baby Nick is in what is termed an active state of dying. As reported:
“The hospital maintains that it is ‘indisputable medical fact’ that Nick showed ‘signs of postmortem deterioration,’ court documents said, according to CNN, and that he had ‘developed progressive signs of organ failure, including cardiac failure.’”
If true, this means Baby Nick will pass away shortly. Herein poses a terrible reality to Baby Nick’s family but also provides an opportunity to hospitals like Texas Children’s. The hospital could simply walk away from their court battle and allow the Torres family to have whatever remaining time is naturally left with their precious son.
Shockingly, hospitals just like Texas Children’s remove life-sustaining treatment under a brain death declaration every day — despite scientific and moral reasons to give the patients more time. A rushed declaration of death and removal of treatment could be motivated by pressure to harvest healthy organs for donation, free up an ICU bed, or pressure from the hospital and insurance carrier.
While debate in the medical and bioethical fields continue over the reliability of testing and the validity of brain death testing, many in the medical community continue to compel families toward removing treatment after brain injury or disorder. As the cultural debate over brain death continues, an increasing amount of families are pushing back against physicians attempting to withdraw their basic life-sustaining treatment even though their loved one is still breathing and has a beating heart. Especially when those patients are children like Baby Nick.
Texas Children’s is seeking to remove life-sustaining treatment before Baby Nick dies under the traditional legal and medical definition. The Torres family wants to allow their son to continue receiving basic treatment while his heart still beats. The family’s attorney aptly identified the core moral question in this lawsuit:
“Do the parents choose, or do the doctors choose? And when the doctors don’t agree with the parents, who gets to decide?”
This impasse between Texas Children’s and Nick’s parents is the direct result of the legal fiction that is “brain death” in our country. Now, instead of staying by his side and working emotionally and spiritually during Baby Nick’s last days, his parents are forced to pour that emotional energy into fighting a vicious public relations war and a draining court battle.
There are better ways to treat patients and their families than rushing life and death decisions on arbitrary deadlines. Please pray for Baby Nick and ask Texas Children’s at 832-824-1000 to drop their attack.