Health / Lifestyle

Nevada court weighs fate of woman on life support for months

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada hospital wants a judge to order new tests for a college student who has been on life support since doctors declared her brain-dead more than six months ago, a move her father opposes because he insists she’s alive and doesn’t want to pull the plug.

The case returns to Washoe County District Court on Wednesday after the Nevada Supreme Court refused to allow Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Reno to disconnect Aden Hailu, 20, from a ventilator and IV tube.

In granting her father’s appeal, the high court on Nov. 16 directed Judge Frances Doherty to hold hearings on whether the American Association of Neurology’s brain-death guidelines cited by hospital doctors conform with Nevada’s Determination of Death Act and effectively determine whether Hailu is legally dead or alive.

“Aden is alive, under both the AAN guidelines and Nevada state law,” said David O’Mara, the lawyer representing Fanuel Gebreyes, the woman’s father.

Hailu, a University of Nevada, Reno, freshman, was hospitalized April 1 after complaining of stomach pain. She suffered severe low blood pressure and a lack of oxygen to the brain during surgery to remove her appendix and explore the cause of abdominal pain, and she never awoke from anesthesia, according to court documents.

Electroencephalogram, or EEG, tests in early April showed brain function. But hospital doctors concluded May 28 that Hailu couldn’t breathe on her own without a ventilator and declared her brain-dead, the documents said.

“It was Saint Mary’s administrators and lawyers who determined Aden’s death,” O’Mara said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “We should err on the side that this person is alive.”

The hospital had agreed to continue life support pending Gebreyes’ appeal.

William Peterson, lead lawyer for the hospital and its parent company Prime Healthcare Services, filed documents Nov. 25 asking that the father be required to show why he won’t allow another EEG test.

The hospital attorney accused Gebreyes of trying “to avoid a prompt and timely testing of brain functions so as to delay a prompt and timely determination of death.”

Peterson said Gebreyes insists that his daughter be given thyroid medication and a tracheostomy so she can receive nutrition through her throat, not just fluids through an IV.

“Aden needs treatment, not tests of her brain,” Gebreyes wrote in a Nov. 20 letter to the hospital that he demanded be attached to her patient chart. “The Nevada Supreme Court ruled … that Aden Hailu is alive.”

He has declined to comment ahead of Wednesday’s hearing. His attorney said in a letter to the hospital that Gebreyes won’t allow brain tests until his daughter is given a tracheostomy, nutrition and thyroid medication.

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Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

 

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