Doctor Accused of Assisting in Death of Premature Baby
JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) _ A doctor accused of hastening the death of a terminally ill 5 1/2 -week-old baby has been charged with murder.
A grand jury indicted Dr. Eva Carrizales on Wednesday in the Oct. 16 death of Omar Jimenez, born 13 weeks prematurely to Guadalupe Jimenez and Jesus Jose Covarubias, immigrants from Mexico.
The baby, who weighed less than two pounds at birth and suffered kidney failure, was not expected to survive. He had been removed from a ventilator.
At issue is whether Ms. Carrizales hastened the death by placing her hand over his mouth and pressing a carotid artery to cut off the blood supply to his brain, as alleged by nurses at Southern Regional Medical Center in Clayton County, about 10 miles south of Atlanta.
In a summary of one of the nurses’ statements, Ms. Carrizales was quoted as saying, ″I’m holding him this way to cut off the blood supply to the brain, so this will not drag on. The parents have been through enough and this could last for days.″
Her lawyer, Stephen Lister, said Thursday that the nurses were mistaken. Lister said she was trying to prevent the baby’s tongue from protruding, out of concern for the mother, not to smother him.
As for the artery, ″Dr. Carrizales was checking that for a pulse,″ he said.
The neonatal specialist, on administrative leave from the hospital since the baby’s death, was expected to turn herself in Friday to face the murder charge, Lister said.
The investigation began after hospital nurses reported their concerns, said hospital spokeswoman Mary Jane Kinnas. ″The nurses felt they might have seen the possible hastening of the death of this extremely premature infant,″ she said.
District Attorney Bob Keller said the case had to be prosecuted on the evidence brought forward by Dr. Joe Burton, the Clayton County medical examiner who ruled the death a homicide last week.
Medical ethics experts said it’s common for doctors to withdraw life support from terminally ill infants, usually with the parents’ consent, although some hospitals have guidelines allowing doctors to proceed without consent if they believe it is futile to try to keep the patient alive.
″There are no cases that I’m aware of where the doctor has removed life support and then taken steps to deliberately end the life of the patient,″ said John Lantos, associate director of the Center for Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago.
″From the moral point of view, stopping treatment is different from actually hastening death,″ said Art Caplan of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Minnesota.