Human Rights

Hospital attempts to disconnect child’s life support against parents’ wishes

life support

UPDATE 10/01, 4:11 p.m.: According to the Star-Telegram, State District Judge Melody Wilkinson has granted the family’s request for a 14-day restraining order to keep the hospital from removing Payton’s life support. However, the judge “also scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Friday to revisit the order an take into consideration any new developments.”

10/01: Cook Children’s Hospital in North Texas is set to remove life support today from a nine-year-old child against the wishes of her parents unless the family finds another hospital to take her as a patient. Late Sunday evening, Tiffany Hofstetter and Joseph Summons, parents of Peyton Summons, made a desperate attempt to beg for more time for their little girl.

Image: Payton Summons child on life support Cook Children's Hospital (Image credit: Tiffany Hofstetter)

Payton Summons on life support at Cook Children’s Hospital (Image credit: Tiffany Hofstetter)

Payton suffered cardiac arrest a week ago and was placed on a ventilator. The hospital has since declared her brain dead, but the child’s parents say she is very much alive.

“My daughter’s alive – she’s here. We just need somebody that will give her a chance,” Payton’s mother told WFAA.

A message published to the family’s GoFundMe page reads in part:

We have until Monday to find transportation and a facility that will accept her in the condition that she is in. They are trying to legally consider her brain dead but her bodily organs are functioning on their own…

Cook Children’s is the same hospital that, in 2012, attempted to terminate care for a child who was the victim of a gunshot. It attempted to convene an ethics committee but the committee’s ruling was delayed, and three days after the hospital had planned to end his life support, the young boy regained consciousness.

The hospital sent Live Action News a statement. It reads, in part:

The staff at Cook Children’s empathizes greatly with the family of Payton Summons. There’s nothing more heartbreaking for a family to face than the possibility of losing a child. Our clinicians, many of whom are parents too, work tirelessly to save children every day.

Payton arrived at Cook Children’s on Tuesday, unconscious and suffering from cardiac arrest.  She underwent an hour of CPR at home and in the ambulance on the way to Cook Children’s.  After arriving in our Emergency Department, our physicians and nurses were able to revive her heartbeat, but they were unsuccessful in resuscitating her breathing.  Payton’s breathing is currently being maintained through artificial means with the use of a ventilator, but she suffered a devastating injury to her brain due to being without oxygen for over an hour. In addition to dealing with the sudden blow of her cardiac arrest and devastating brain injury, Payton’s family is also coping with the news that the arrest was caused by the growth of a very large tumor in her chest that is shutting off her circulatory system.

Under Texas law, a person is considered dead when they have suffered an irreversible loss of all brain function. As is standard medical practice, we conducted a brain death exam on Payton approximately 24 hours after she was admitted to our hospital. The results were conclusive and showed zero brain activity, confirming that Payton is brain dead.  In addition, an electroencephalogram (EEG) showed no electrical activity in her brain. Per our protocol and national pediatric medical standards, a second brain death exam was scheduled to take place by a different physician within 12 hours of the first to complete the legal process of declaring Payton deceased….

Our doctors have assisted in that effort by calling two North Texas hospitals, but neither was willing to accept transfer because they agreed there was nothing additional they could do for Payton. Our hearts are with Payton’s family and we will continue doing everything in our power to help them through this difficult time.

Image: Peyton Summons child on life support Cook Children's

As a toddler, Payton beat cancer, her family reported, which gives them hope that another miracle could happen.

Image: Peyton's mom pleads for more time

Peyton’s mom pleads for more time

Payton’s mother told WFAA that the little girl has a mass behind her heart “that is twice the size of her heart. That is what closed her airways and made her stop breathing.”

But, Tiffany added, her heart rate is good and her organs are functioning.

“She’s still alive – give her a chance,” Payton’s mother begged.

WFAA reported that the hospital had intended to remove the child from life support last week, but extended it another week because the parent’s asked for additional time.

A hospital spokesperson said that the extension was granted to “give the family time to better understand these heartbreaking developments, as well as to provide the family opportunity to explore the possibility of transferring Payton to another facility.”

Parents say that they tried desperately to have their daughter moved to another hospital in hopes that with more time, the nine-year-old would improve.

“They’re going to do another brain death test, and then they can pull the plug, stop the breathing machine,” the child’s father told WFAA. “We want them to restart treatment.”

A representative for the hospital said in a statement to CBS11, “Per our protocol and national pediatric medical standards, a second brain death exam was scheduled to take place by a different physician within 12 hours of the first to complete the legal process of declaring Payton deceased.”

Cook Children’s Hospital claimed in their statement that hospital doctors assisted the family in contacting two North Texas hospitals, “but neither was willing to accept transfer because they agreed there was nothing additional they could do for Payton.”

As of Sunday evening, Payton’s parents had hired an attorney in the hopes they can buy more time. They vowed to not stop fighting until they find a facility that will take her.

“The hospital has granted us until tomorrow [Monday] at noon to find another facility to take her,” said the child’s mother.

“Your heart is still beating – there’s still life in there,” Tiffany said.

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