AUSTIN - Lawyers for a terminally ill toddler on life support will again ask a court this week to keep alive the 17-month-old who cannot find another hospital to take him.
The family of Emilio Gonzales has until Tuesday to transfer the boy, who faced a similar deadline last month before his hospital provided more time to locate a new facility.
But no takers have emerged since Children's Hospital in Austin granted a two-week extension March 20. The hospital plans to remove the respirator Wednesday, and doctors expect Emilio to die within minutes or hours.
A lawyer for the family said she will ask a Travis County probate judge Tuesday for a temporary restraining order forcing the hospital to treat Emilio while the search continues.
"We're hopeful that we will receive more time to find a transfer for Emilio, because we have not exhausted all possibilities and leads," attorney Jerri Ward said.
Emilio has Leigh's disease, a degenerative neurological disorder causing his brain tissue to die. He has been at the hospital since December, and doctors fear the life support machines are hurting him.
Among his supporters are state lawmakers backing a bill that would prohibit hospitals from stopping life-sustaining treatment while a family pursues a transfer or other care.
Under the current law, doctors are obligated to give only 10 days notice before withdrawing treatment when further care is deemed medically futile, even over the wishes of the patient and family.
The temporary restraining order request would not be the first filed by Emilio's lawyers. Children's Hospital granted the recent two-week extension hours after Ward filed a similar motion four days before doctors first scheduled removal of the respirator.
But Michael Reiger, general counsel for the Seton Family of Hospitals, said there are no medical options left for the boy. He said Emilio has been turned down by 30 other hospitals, including ones that specialize in treating patients like him.
Reiger said Wednesday's removal would come at a convenient time for the family when support services are on hand.
"We would want it to be peaceful and dignified and as respectful as it could be," he said.
Emilio's mother, Catarina Gonzales, said her son reacts to speech and is not brain dead. Doctors say he has no purposeful movement and tests show that his brain is withering.
Last week, lawyers for the Gonzales family failed to persuade U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks to intervene in the case.
Texas is one of the few states with a timetable for cutting off a patient's life-sustaining treatment, according to studies cited by activist groups.
Under the current law, a doctor's decision to refuse a family's wishes to continue life-sustaining treatment is subject to review by a hospital ethics or medical committee. The patient and family get 48 hours' notice of that meeting.