Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mom Disputes Kaiser’s ‘Brain Dead’ Diagnosis

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A mother contends in US District Court for the Eastern District of California that her two-year-old son is alive, not "brain dead."

Jonee Fonseca, as parent and guardian of Israel Stinson, seeks a temporary restraining order requiring Kaiser to keep Israel on a ventilator and feed him through a gastric tube until she can find another facility to take him. Her complaint names Kaiser Permanente Medical Center Roseville and Dr. Michael Myette, M.D. as defendants. Fonseca alleges violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

According to Fonseca's complaint, Israel was taken to non-party Mercy General Hospital for an asthma attack on April 1. He was intubated, transferred to non-party UC Davis and admitted to intensive care, it says. On April 3, after being temporarily removed from a machine that administered the asthma drug albuterol, he stopped breathing and was given CPR, it says. Over the next several days, various brain functioning tests were performed, it says.

"According to Israel's medical records, Israel was not in a coma at the time these tests were performed. American Academy of Neurology guidelines require that patients be in a coma prior to performing a brain death exam," the complaint states.

Israel was transferred to Kaiser on April 11 and is currently on a ventilator, according to the complaint.

"Jonee Fonseca is a devout Christian and believes in the healing power of God. She also believes that life does not end until the cessation of cardiopulmonary function. She believes that removing Israel from the ventilator is tantamount to ending his life," the complaint states.

"With pulmonary support provided by the ventilator, Israel's heart and other organs are functioning well. Israel has also begun moving his upper body in response to his mother's voice and touch," it states. Fonseca has video evidence that shows Israel responding to her, according to the complaint.

Nonetheless, "Kaiser Permanente Medical Center Roseville, by and through its pediatric intensivist defendant Myette, has informed plaintiff Jonee Fonseca that Israel is brain dead," the complaint states.

A different doctor disagrees and has given Fonseca a declaration stating that Israel is alive, according to the complaint.

"Defendants claim that, since they have pronounced Israel brain dead that Jonee Fonseca has no right to exercise any decision making authority vis-à-vis maintaining her son on a ventilator. Defendants have indicated that they wish to remove life support within the next 24 hours," the complaint states.

Jonee Fonseca is represented by Kevin T. Snider, Michael J. Peffer and Matthew B. McReynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento.

Attorneys at the Pacific Justice Institute have not responded to an e-mail sent after 5:00 p.m. Thursday.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.