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Hawkins v. DeKalb Medical Center -- Going to Trial

Posted Sep 22 2008 6:07am

A trial can proceed in a lawsuit filed against DeKalb Medical Center for removing an 18-year-old patient from life support against her mother's wishes.

The Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the lawsuit, meaning a ruling issued last year by the state Court of Appeals stands. That appeals court ruling said the decision to end the life of a patient with no living will and no chance of regaining brain function belongs to families, not hospitals.

The state Court of Appeals also held that the Georgia's two-year deadline for filing wrongful death claims doesn't apply to children.

The lawsuit involving the death of Tara Bottoms-Hawkins will proceed to trial in DeKalb County .

"It's been cleared that we're right on the law and we now just have to convince a jury about the facts of this case," said John Crongeyer, an attorney representing Bottoms-Hawkins' mother and her 4-year-old son. "As of this point, DeKalb Medical Center hasn't disputed the fact that they terminated Tara's life without consent."

Tim Bendin, attorney for DeKalb Medical Center, did not return calls to his office seeking comment on Friday.

Tara Bottoms-Hawkins, a pregnant college freshman, was knocked down by an acquaintance on Nov. 23, 2003. The fall injured her neck, and she lapsed into a coma.

Bottoms-Hawkins had been in a coma for almost four months when she spontaneously delivered a son in her hospital bed.

Two days later, doctors removed Bottoms-Hawkins from a ventilator against the wishes of her mother.

An issue yet to be decided in the case is whether the teenager was brain dead, which is considered legally dead in Georgia, or just brain damaged when doctors unplugged her. In any case, Bottoms-Hawkins' mother, Nonnie Hawkins, hopes the ruling puts power back in the hands of families.

"I thank my Lord and savior Jesus for the court saying the truth," Hawkins said. "This will help everybody in Georgia, not just Tara's situation."

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