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New Futility Case: Martin v. Memorial Hermann

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:34am

Chris Vogel has a lengthy and detailed story in Thursday's Houston Press, titled "Doctors vs. Parents: Who Decides Right to Life?" It describes a compelling and serious futility dispute that is now headed to court.

14-year-old Sabrina Martin's surgery for a sinus infection did not turn out well. She developed a brain abscess and brain swelling. The staff at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital told Sabrina's parents that Sabrina "had two strokes and because of them, she was in a coma that they didn't think she was going to come out of. And if she did, she would be a vegetable." The staff then "began pressuring them to withhold treatment and feeding."

But they allegedly went far beyond just trying to persuade the parents what they thought was the best course of action. In addition the Memorial Hermann staff:

  • Attempt[ed] to turn relatives and friends against Lopez and Murray by encouraging them to persuade the parents to withhold treatment, all the while violating federal privacy laws by discussing Sabrina's healthcare information
  • Enter[ed] two separate do-not-resuscitate orders against her parents' wishes
  • Threaten[ed] the family with convening the hospital's ethics committee, which under Texas law can overrule the family's wishes and withhold life-support treatment from a patient.

But most serious of all is the allegation that “Memorial Hermann and the doctors and nurses working on the case wanted Sabrina to die to bury the evidence of malpractice and limit the potential damages in court.”

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