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April 23, 2005

Bronx Family Heads To Court To Keep Son On Life-Support

Topics: News

Several people have sent me the following story that has been changing by the hour. Here is the latest:Newsday:

An emergency hearing was held at a Bronx hospital Friday night after the family of a brain-dead boy alleged that the hospital had threatened to remove him from life support against their wishes.

The unusual hearing came after relatives of Teron Francis, 13, obtained a court order prohibiting Montefiore Medical Center from disconnecting his respirator.

About two dozen relatives stood outside the hospital, prevented by police from attending the closed hearing. A hospital spokesman said the hearing was being held in a small conference room, with only the judge, attorneys, doctors, the boy's mother, Marcerlyn Francis, and a stenographer in attendance.

Shortly after midnight the judge told about two dozen of the relatives assembled in the lobby that the hospital would not remove the boy from the respirator. He also told them that he would order an investigation into what happened to Teron.

"The judge said we won the case because they are not going to pull the plug on him," the boy's uncle, Fredrick Francis, 53, said. "Whenever his heart stops beating, that's when God is ready for him."

The uncle said the hospital told him that Teron has anywhere from an hour to two weeks to live.

Earlier Friday, Robert Genis, a lawyer for the family, went to State Supreme Court to get an order forcing the hospital to show why Teron's respirator should be removed.

"The hospital wants to cut him off now, even though we got a show cause order to continue his life support," Genis said before going into the 10:15 p.m. hearing.

A hospital spokesman, Steve Osborne, denied the attorney's allegations.

"We never threatened to turn off the respirator," he said. "It will be up to the mother, probably."

He said Teron is on a respirator but not life support. "The child is not on life support because he is brain dead and that's not a life condition.

"The judge ruled that we must make all efforts to make sure that we do whatever we can do to keep his heart functioning," Osborne said before the hearing. "The child is brain dead [link added], but we are not going to take the child off the respirator."

Osborne accused Genis of "doing a disservice to the family" by misstating the hospital's intentions. As for the possibility of taking Teron off the respirator, Osborne said: "It's better to do it sooner than later because of the boy's condition. When you're brain dead, your organs just fade away slowly."

Teron's complications began Monday after he was taken to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital complaining of a severe headache and toothache. The family said doctors conducted a CAT-scan and told relatives that an infection had spread to his brain.

After he went into convulsions and became unconscious, Teron was hooked up to a respirator and transferred to Montefiore for surgery on Tuesday, his family said. "Something went terribly wrong because my brother was always conscious in the hospital," said Teron's brother, Erron Francis, 24. "On Wednesday, they were calling us asking us about donating organs."

More to follow ...

Newslinks:

ABC News, more here
New York One

Posted by tim at April 23, 2005 12:02 AM


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From the New York Daily News, same story, different nuances ( http://www.nydailynews.com/news/local/story/302734p-259173c.html ) :

[quote]
After the hearing before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon, Teron's uncle Frederick Francis, 53, said that when his nephew's "heart stops, that's it. That's when God will take him. It could happen in an hour or two weeks, but he is leaving us."
[/quote]

[quote]
Hospital spokesman Steve Osborne said McKeon, who was originally supposed to hear the case Monday in court, "determined that we're not going to take extraordinary measures" to keep Teron alive and that the boy's mom agreed.
[/quote]

It seems they just want him to die naturally and don't wish to proactively do anything to either shorten whatever time he has left or to do anything to prolong it, both of which is their right and the judge affirmed it.
I fail to see the controversy here beyond the question if doctor's weren't a direct cause for his condition.

Posted by: Vanessa at April 23, 2005 12:28 PM

"Die naturally" - this is the emotive term used whenever someone doesn't want to treat another person. It is prejudicial and vague to the point of being meaningless. You also presume that doctors should be able to "pull the plug" against parent's wishes and can detect the ending of life, for the purpose of organ harvesting, despite the functioning of the body. Frankly, I wouldn't trust anyone with the life of my child who did what is alleged in this article (http://www.nypost.com/commentary/45054.htm).

Posted by: tim at April 23, 2005 1:47 PM

Vanessa,

You don't see anything out of line with the statement:

"It is better to do it sooner than later because of the boy's condition. When you're brain dead, your organs just fade away slowly"

For crying out loud! The child isn't human, it is just a PROFIT CENTER!!

Posted by: Tom Spence at April 23, 2005 1:59 PM

It would be nice if people actually read what I typed and not presume to read something that isn't there.
Nowhere did I even hint at the fact that I think the hospital should take him off life support because I don't. Doctors have an advisory roll and their suggestions shouldn't be instantly dismissed but the final call is not theirs to make.
And unless I'm completely misreading everything the hearing was not on if he'll die but how and when and to stress that it was up to the parents to make that specific call.

Tom:
I can understand that the issue of donating would come up in a situation like this but I very much doubt it's done with ill intent.
Now, asking that to a mother and father who's son went from healthy to being declared clinically dead practically overnight, with a possibility that someone made a mistake and is directly responsible for it, is horribly insensitive and uncaring and it shouldn't have been brought up.

So I wholeheartedly agree with you that they grossly failed to show compassion towards the family but I don't agree with the fact they're just preying to harvest him.

Posted by: Vanessa at April 23, 2005 6:58 PM

Tom and Vanessa,

I'll say what I've always said: It is highly unwise to be a marketable commodity in a greedy and immoral world.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 23, 2005 8:45 PM

Vanessa,

I don't mean to appear to be picking on you personally. We don't know the hospital's intent. We do, however, know what the hospital's spokesman said. **Words have meaning**. His words are very clear at least in regard to showing where the hospital's priorities lie.

Posted by: Tom Spence at April 24, 2005 12:30 AM