Death Panel Slips DNR Order Into 12-Year-Old’s Medical File

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Until last week, a 12-year-old gunshot victim’s life was endangered more by his doctor than his injury.

Zach McDaniel of Abilene was shot in the head on August 6 when he got caught in the crossfire of a drug deal gone bad. He was rushed into emergency surgery, and then transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth for more intensive care.

At the time of transfer, Zach was stable, despite being on a ventilator and in a drug-induced coma. But as soon as Zach was admitted to the intensive care unit at Cook, doctors painted a grim picture for his parents, claiming that he would not live for long, and that part of his brain had been removed during surgery. His parents were urged to “let him go” and sign an organ donation consent form.

His parents considered signing, but a brain scan later revealed that Zach’s brain was whole. Cook staff said that there must have been miscommunication between the two hospitals. Consequently, Zach’s parents refused to sign the donation form.

Just a week later, the hospital convened a death panel — called an “ethics committee” — to review Zach’s case. Under Texas law, if the panel members agree among themselves that a patient’s care would be “futile” in order to improve or save the patient’s life, then the hospital reserves the right to terminate all care — including food and water — after 10 days.

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