A medical crisis can shake a family to its very core. It’s horrible to lose a life to a sudden stroke or a slow, insidious cancer.
An illness or accident that leaves an individual straddling death’s doorstep can also be incredibly challenging. And the decision to keep a barely alive person on life support or take him off can divide families and make national news.
Pundits have lined up with both accolades and criticism in every case where a person is stranded between life and death, and it has happened again with the case of a Grand Prairie, Texas, girl.
I imagine that the family of 9-year-old Payton Summons thought they’d heard the worst when the young girl received a juvenile cancer diagnosis. But the worst was yet to come, The Texas Tribune reported.
At the end of September, the tumor that had swelled in her chest started impacting her breathing. Suddenly, Payton wasn’t getting the oxygen her body needed.
While at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, her heart stopped and physicians had to labor over her for an hour to restart her pulse. They eventually did, but the damage was already done.
Payton had suffered brain damage and couldn’t breathe on her own. In fact, the doctors declared her brain dead and wanted to remove life support — a decision her loved ones adamantly opposed.
“Her heart rate was still great. Her organs were functioning,” her mother, Tiffany Hofstetter, said. “She’s still alive. Give her a chance.”
Under Texas law, though, the hospital doesn’t necessarily have to. The Texas Advance Directive Act, which was passed in 1999, makes Texas one of only three states that allows doctors to remove patients from life support without family members’ approval and to remain immune from any legal liability as long as they have the backing of an ethics board.
However, the law does allow patients to remain on life support if a family can find other hospitals that will accept them. Payton’s family has sued to allow them more time to find a new facility.
But Cook Children’s Medical Center says that it simply won’t happen. Fox News reported that hospital attorney Laura Copeland said, “There is no facility, there is no phone call that could be made, there is no place that will take her.
“She is dead. It is very traumatic for the staff to have to do things for a patient they know is dead.”
Payton’s family, though, strongly disagrees. “As their right under the Texas Advance Directive Act, they should be provided the time and opportunity to find another facility that will allow for continued care of Payton while she slowly recovers,” their attorney, Justin Moore, said.
“They simply want to give their child a fighting chance. Far too often, we have seen medical facilities choose profits over care for patients.”
What do you think? Should family members have the always have the right to remove treatment or should it rest with the experts providing the actual medical care?
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