Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Taking Hostages: The Linares Case

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Taking Hostages: The Linares Case

Article excerpt

Taking Hostages: The Linares Case

Five-month-old Samuel Linares aspirated a blue balloon at a birthday party on August 2, 1988. With his son in his arms, the twenty-three year-old father, Rudolfo, rushed to a fire station where paramedics removed the balloon with a forceps. Samuel was left comatose and respirator-dependent in a "persistent vegetative state" at Chicago's Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. When the prognosis became clear, the family asked that the respirator be disconnected and their son allowed to die.

Though the physicians were sympathetic, the hospital's lawyer read federal law to require the hospital to continue treatment to avoid liability for "murder or child abuse." The hospital does not have an ethics committee or an ethics consultant. The family were told they must procure a court order to terminate care and that the hospital would not oppose such an effort. Obtaining such an order would have cost tens of thousands of dollars and would have certainly involved an appeals process, given that Illinois courts have not addressed this question. Recourse to the Courts was beyond the means of this part-time house painter. Mr. Linares's brother, Roberto, indicated that the ordeal "was killing and eating my brother away inside." Last December, the anguished father disconnected the ventilator. Guards wrestled him to the floor; the child was snatched from his arms and reconnected to the ventilator.

Absent a court order, the hospital told the family that Samuel would be moved to a nursing home. Roberto says that Rudolfo "didn't want Sammy to be moved to th[at] place....It would be like a home for the dead, really, and he didn't want that for his son." The family had an appointment with a public official on April 28 to discuss court orders. On April 24, Public Aid said that it would not pay further hospital costs. The next day, hospital staff left a message on the family's answering machine that the infant would be transferred on April 26.

That night the distraught father went to the hospital where guards, alerted by a neighbor, checked him before allowing him to go to the ICU. Mr. …

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