9th Circuit Court of Appeals
9th Circuit Court of Appeals | Idak/Shutterstock.com

Parents to appeal ruling in brain-dead toddler case

Attorneys for the parents of an infant declared brain-dead will file an appeal early this week after a federal court ruled against granting an injunction that would have kept the boy on life support indefinitely.

Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that Kaiser Medical Center in Roseville, California, did everything within the law to care for 2-year-old Israel Stinson, and followed the law in declaring him brain-dead.

Israel’s mother, Jonee Fonseca, wanted an injunction ordering the hospital to keep Israel on life support until his family finds a permanent place for him, possibly in New Jersey, the only state in the country where a person declared brain-dead can be kept on life support on religious grounds.  

Fonseca and the toddler's father, Nate Stinson of Vaccaville, California, believe their child is still alive, contrary to what the hospital says are clear medical rules and legal precedent on when a person should be declared dead. Fonseca, in her suit asking for the injunction, said her son has shown signs of life, that he has responded to touches and that she believes in the “healing power of God.”

The parents’ lawyer, Kevin Snider, said he will be filing an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals early this week. An interim injunction expires Friday, after which Israel will be taken off life support and a death certificate issued, if an appeal is not filed.

Alexandra Snyder, of the Legal Life Defense Foundation, a pro-life organization supporting the parents, said they were "disappointed by the ruling but determined to fight on."

In her ruling, published Friday, Mueller wrote: “While Ms. Fonseca’s maternal instincts and moral position are completely understandable, the concerns reviewed here suggest she is unlikely to obtain the relief she seeks, and weigh against a preliminary injunction based on the law this court is sworn to apply and uphold.”

Fonseca, in her suit, argued the hospital has a duty under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to care for Israel. The act states that emergency care must be provided to patients arriving at any hospital.

But Justice Mueller agreed with Kaiser Medical Center, and its attorney’s argument, that the hospital complied with the law as it provided life-saving care to the child for nearly a month. This despite two doctors confirming, within days of arriving, that the child was permanently brain-dead.

Further, California’s Uniform Determination of Death Act follows national standards that require separate examinations by two physicians, at least 12 hours apart in the case of children. California Superior Court last month upheld the hospital’s determination of brain death.

Dr. Wade Smith, director of neurologic intensive care at the University of California, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper Sunday: “This is a situation in medicine where we have clear absolutes. This child will never wake up."