Child Deceased, Court Dismisses Life-Support Lawsuit

SACRAMENTO (CN) – A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging California’s application of its brain-dead standard, ruling against a mother who said the state should have stopped a hospital from pulling her toddler off life support seven months ago.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller granted the state’s motion to dismiss Jonee Fonseca’s second amended complaint, which she filed weeks before a California hospital turned off her 2-year-old son’s ventilator, with a state court’s approval.

Mueller found that Fonseca lacked standing to sue California Department of Public Health Director Karen Smith and challenge the constitutionality of the California Uniform Determination of Death Act, or CUDDA.

Fonseca said Smith was derelict in her duty when the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles took her son Israel Stinson off life support in August 2016.

Mueller rejected Fonseca’s argument that Kaiser doctors misdiagnosed Israel as brain-dead and influenced the Children’s Hospital to ignore conflicting tests performed by doctors in Guatemala.

“Nothing in CUDDA prevented Children’s Hospital from performing its own independent examination,” the ruling states. “Plaintiff’s allegations are therefore not sufficient to show CUDDA is the cause of her injuries.”

Fonseca argued that Israel was showing signs of life and accused doctors of wanting to “pull the plug “on him.

“Plaintiff’s contention is inconsistent with the plain language of CUDDA, for if the cessation of all brain functions is irreversible, brain functions would by definition not return, not even in rare cases,” Mueller wrote.

She gave Fonseca 21 days to amend her second complaint.

The ruling is the latest weave in a legal challenge that has drawn comparisons to Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl who had a heart attack and was declared brain dead in 2013 but is still alive, on life support.

In April 2016 doctors at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento determined that Israel suffered a severe heart attack that left him brain dead. The diagnosis was confirmed by Kaiser’s doctors, who recommended taking Israel off life support.

Fonseca filed emergency motions hoping to ban Kaiser from taking Israel off life support. After both motions were denied, Fonseca and her family moved Israel to a Guatemalan hospital on May 22, days before a deadline that would have allowed Kaiser to remove the toddler from life support.

“After examining Israel, a neurologist and pediatric specialist at the new hospital have concluded that our son is NOT brain-dead. He is right now receiving nutrients (besides dextrose) and a treatment protocol for the first time in six weeks,” Fonseca said in a social media post.

After nearly three months in Central America, Israel was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where doctors once again declared him brain dead. Fonseca then filed and received a temporary restraining order from a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, stopping the hospital from taking Israel off his ventilator.

A week later, the court dissolved the restraining order and doctors shut off Israel’s life support.

“Had he been given more time to recover, he would have made a recovery,” Fonseca said on Facebook. “The judge did not agree and ordered him to be taken off life support. To me Israel did not die but he was murdered …”

Fonseca’s attorneys with the pro-life group Pacific Justice Institute said Mueller dismissed the complaint because it was based on facts from when Israel was still alive, and that she will file an amended complaint.

“As such, the ruling of the court to dismiss the complaint, with leave to amend, was expected,” attorney Kevin Snider said in an email.

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