Health

Parents Fight To Keep 2-Year-Old Daughter On Life Support

| by Michael Howard
Mirranda Grace LawsonMirranda Grace Lawson

A Richmond, Virginia, father is battling to keep his 2-year-old daughter on life support despite the fact that doctors say she is brain dead and won't recover.

Mirranda Grace Lawson has been on life support at a Virginia hospital since she choked on a popcorn kernel in May. Now, doctors want to perform a test that they say will prove the toddler is brain dead.

The Lawsons are opposed to the test, fearing it may harm their daughter, according to The Associated Press. They have taken the matter to the Virginia Supreme Court after the Richmond Circuit Court ruled against them.

"My daughter is getting better," Patrick Lawson said at a news conference, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "I still believe my little girl is going to open her eyes."

Meanwhile, the VCU Health System is attempting to get approval from the court to conduct the test. They say their resources are limited and keeping Mirranda on life support is ultimately detrimental to the hospital's operations.

"Having one of the [Pediatric Intensive Care Unit] beds and all the human resources that entails, occupied by Mirranda, who has likely been dead for weeks, jeopardizes the care of critically ill children that VCU Health System is being forced to turn away," an attorney for the hospital wrote, according to the AP.

Mirranda's doctors say it would be "astounding" if she were able to breathe on her own, given that all previous tests conducted on her indicate brain death. They also say Virginia law allows them to declare Mirranda brain dead without any further testing, but they are following national guidelines for the sake of Mirranda's parents.

Arthur Caplan of the division of medical ethics at New York University said hospitals do not normally request permission to carry out such tests.

"You'd have chaos if doctors were asking permission to do every test relative to the determination of death," he said.

David Magnus of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics says the test, called an apnea test, does not pose any risk to Mirranda.

"It's hard to see what grounds the family would have to object unless they simply don't want to hear the bad news that their loved one has passed away," he said.

Ideally, the Lawsons say they would like to take Mirranda home, but are also open to the possibility of keeping her in a long-term care facility, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"She's improving and they say she should be deteriorating," Patrick Lawson said. "I just hope we can get her out of here, if they would allow that."

Life Legal Defense Foundation attorney Alexandra Snyder said it is not unheard of for victims of serious brain injuries to be cared for at home by their families, and furthermore that the hospital is not intent on keeping Mirranda alive.

"They have made a decision that Mirranda has to die," she said. "If they can't suffocate her to death by taking her off the ventilator, they're going to starve her."

"I'm not in denial," Patrick Lawson said. "I understand that she's got a serious injury. If she's only got a 20 percent chance, and she's in that 20 percent, then she's got 100 percent chance of living."

Sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch, Associated Press via CBS News / Photo credit: Lawson family via​ Richmond Times-Dispatch

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