A family has been left in shock after their 2-year-old son died after being removed from life support against their wishes, according to several reports.
On Thursday afternoon, 2-year-old Israel Stinson was removed from a breathing ventilator at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles after a judge upheld the hospital’s decision to remove life support, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now, the toddler’s parents, Jonee Fonseca and Nathaniel Stinson, are left “devastated,” as expressed by Alexandra Snyder, an attorney with the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a pro-life group representing Israel’s family pro bono.
“I was on the phone with his mother when the doctors disconnected him,” Snyder said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They were in such a hurry to do it, they didn’t even sit down and explain what was going on.”
A spokesperson for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Lorenzo Benet, tells PEOPLE, “Due to health privacy regulations, we cannot comment.”
This tragic battle started in April, when Israel suffered a brain injury following an asthma-related cardiac arrest at UC Davis Medical Center, the Sacramento Bee reported. While doctors were able to restart his heart, he reportedly went about an hour without oxygen and doctors determined he was brain dead, according to Los Angeles Times reported.
Doctors at the Sacramento hospital advised that Israel be removed from life support and to perform operations to insert feeding and breathing tubes, but Israel’s parents reportedly refused to comply. They went to court and asked to keep their son on life support and – hopefully – recover.
Some health professionals argue that providing intensive care for children like Israel costs thousands of dollars per day, and inhibits hospitals from helping other critically ill children who could benefit from the resources, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The family started a GoFundMe page to raise money and awareness for Israel’s recovery, and Fonseca wrote on the page, “God is telling me not to let go.”
The parents also posted a YouTube video in late April, asking for anyone to help treat their son. In the video, Fonseca said, “We are reaching out, hoping that anyone hospital right now is willing to take us in … so that we can get him to in-home care and take care of him at home.”
By May, three doctors at UC Davis in Sacramento and Kaiser Permanente in Roseville had declared Israel was brain dead. That same month, a federal judge rejected the family’s lawsuit to keep their son on a ventilator. Fonseca and Stinson then took their son to Guatemala, where doctors conducted tests that showed Israel had brain activity, according to CBS. After the tests came back, Snyder told CBS that Children’s Hospital Los Angeles agreed to take Israel as a patient. He was checked into the hospital on Aug. 8, according to the Los Angeles Times. But soon after he was admitted, the hospital said Israel was brain dead and needed to be taken off life support.
“I’m just baffled as to why the hospital would have agreed to take him for the sole reason of putting him to death,” Snyder said. “They knew his condition when he came to the hospital.”
This is one of many cases in which the definition of death is contested by family members and hospital officials, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Dr. Wade Smith, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, has been involved in more than 30 brain-death diagnoses.
“This is a very sad story that draws strong emotions on all sides,” Smith told the Sacramento Bee. “I do think that it helps support the practice of brain-death declaration, a practice that is important for physicians, patients and medical practice in general. Perhaps his parents can find peace now.”
Just last week, a judge gave a temporary restraining order to stop the hospital from removing Israel’s ventilator to give the family time to get an opinion from another neurologist. But on Thursday, the judge heard an appeal filed by the hospital and ordered to have the ventilator removed. The judge ruled that because the case had been adjudicated in both state and federal court, the lower court in Los Angeles was dissolving the temporary order, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The most recent update from the family’s GoFundMe page, posted less than a week before the decision, showed joy and hope in Israel’s condition.
“We are so happy to inform you all that we are now back home in America with Israel,” the family said. “After almost 3 months of staying in Guatemala, Israel’s condition has progressed and we are so happy that he has 2 EEG’s that prove his brain is not ‘dead’ and that there is still activity.”
The post went on to detail that the family was making arrangements for at-home care of Israel, and said they had already found a doctor willing to treat him and make home visits.
Snyder told CBS more about the heart-breaking end of this months-long battle to keep Israel alive.
“They are devastated,” she said. “I think still in shock. It’s not even my child; I am still in shock this could happen so quickly. … That is something every family has to decide for themselves, not a choice that should be imposed upon somebody.”