Another execution of the innocent


PiratePundit has some original reporting on a Texas case in which a hospital wants to stop treatment of an infant with a genetic disorder and to evict him from the hospital, despite his mother's wishes that treatment continue.

In Texas, a baby has been in effect sentenced to die. He is hospitalized with a disease called thanatophoric dysplasia. A website devoted to genetic disorders says that “Infants with this condition are usually stillborn or die shortly after birth from respiratory failure; however, some children have survived into childhood with a lot of medical help.” The child in question, Sun Hudson, is four months old and has obviously survived the danger of stillbirth and has not died shortly after birth. Sun’s mother wants him to live. Doctors at the hospital where Sun was born no longer want to supply him with the “lot of medical help” he needs, and plan to shut off his oxygen supply.

PiratePundit interviewed the mother's attorney and writes that this story is not about money (the patient is covered by Medicaid), not about an untreatable condition (the hospital boasts on its website about the resources of its genetics clinic for dealing with such conditions), and it's not about pro-life politics (the attorney isn't a pro-lifer and points out that Sun Hudson has already been born).

This is about one judge who has by any objective standard allowed no due process to the child who may soon be killed or to the child’s mother. Attorney Caballero subpoenaed hospital records of Medicaid payments for the child’s treatment. The judge quashed the subpoena (meaning that he voided it) and refused to allow the mother to view those hospital records. Caballero subpoenaed the person in charge of records who could testify about the medical bills and payment. Judge McColloch quashed that subpoena. Instead, the judge ruled that the mother, in seeking to save her child’s life from a deliberate cessation of medical treatment, had “no cause of action”. The judge made that ruling based only on the petitions filed, not allowing the mother’s attorney to conduct any discovery under the normal rules of court procedure. ...

Finally before the probate court, the mother was not given the opportunity to call any witnesses or present any evidence in an evidentiary hearing. Instead, the judge ruled that the hospital may discontinue treatment of the child, based on facts not even alleged by the hospital, specifically that the judge believed the child was suffering “significant pain.” According to Caballero, when he asked how the judge had reached that finding of fact without ever having heard any testimony or conducting a hearing on the merits of the case, the judge replied, on the record, that he “probably got it from the newspaper.” Having visited the baby in the hospital, Caballero flatly denies that the child is in pain. After reflection, Caballero asked Judge McColloch to recuse himself from the case. McColloch refused.

So this poor baby is stuck with a judge that doesn't seem interested in the facts. As I understand it, the appeals court will defer to the judge as the trier of fact, as long as he made no procedural errors. This is the same problem that Terri Schiavo faces -- you may have an unjust judge who suppresses important evidence, but you're stuck with him and his rulings as long as he follows procedure.

Hat tip to the Dalek Weblog, which I found because they also have an entry about the Tulsa World's legal threats against BatesLine: "Is Tulsa the new Bunker Hill?"

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 22, 2005 10:47 PM.

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