Racing against the clock, lawyers for the family of brain-dead toddler Israel Stinson have filed an emergency federal appeal, seeking to prevent Kaiser Permanente’s Roseville hospital from taking the child off a ventilator by Friday’s court-ordered deadline.
“We’re remaining optimistic that we’ll get a ruling on this,” said Kevin Snider, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, one of two legal groups representing Israel’s mother, Jonee Fonseca. “We’re looking to buy as much time as possible for this child so he can be transferred to another facility. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller ruled that Fonseca’s attorneys had failed to meet the required legal standards for their constitutional challenges to the 2-year-old being declared brain-dead by Kaiser physicians. Sympathetic to Fonseca’s “maternal instincts,” Mueller stipulated that Kaiser’s life support be extended to May 20 to give the family time to file an emergency appeal.
That appeal was initially filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the weekend. On Tuesday, attorneys filed an emergency motion so the court can issue a ruling before the Friday deadline. In the latest filing, Snider wrote the situation requires an “extraordinary remedy.” If the appeals court denies her request, Snider wrote, Israel’s mother will seek emergency relief through the U.S. Supreme Court.
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The drawn-out court battle has gone through three court systems and three hospitals since April 1, when Israel was brought to a Mercy Hospital emergency room with asthma symptoms. Due to his serious condition, he was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, where he suffered cardiac arrest. After 40 minutes of CPR, UC Davis doctors declared that Israel was brain-dead. At that point, his parents had him transferred for a second opinion to Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center. There, two more physicians determined that the toddler had suffered irreversible brain death.
His parents, a Vacaville couple who also have a 1-year-old daughter, believe Israel can take breaths independently of a ventilator and respond to his mother’s voice and touch. They want him transferred to another facility where they hope he can receive nutrients through a feeding tube and show improvements to his condition. So far, they have not been able to find a facility willing to take him.
Kaiser and other physicians maintain that any recovery is highly unlikely, given his condition.
Dr. Michael Myette, director of Kaiser Roseville’s pediatric intensive care unit, stated in court documents last week that there has been no clinical change in Israel’s condition since April 15. With no brain function, Dr. Myette, noted, Israel’s heart continues beating due to a combination of mechanical support, medications, glucose, hormones, water and electrolytes.
“As Israel’s brain is not telling his organs how to function, medical intervention is required for all critical metabolic functions,” Myette stated. “Without these drugs and a ventilator, his heart would cease to function within minutes.”
Myette also noted that Israel “continues to slowly deteriorate” and the hospital is “reaching the effective limits on medications used to keep his heart beating.”
In a statement, Dr. Chris Palkowski, chief of staff at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, said hospital officials are reviewing the court appeal documents filed this week. “At the same time, our physicians and care teams will continue demonstrating extraordinary skill and professionalism during this sad time,” Palkowski said. “We will continue to offer support to the family, and follow the direction of the court.”