- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) When Sidney Ainsley Miller was born, she was small enough to fit in the palm of her father's hand.
Her eyes were fused, and her head was hardly bigger than a golf ball.
Now, at age 11, she is blind and retarded, living in a painful world of contracted limbs and seizures. She cannot walk, talk or feed herself.
She is also at the center of a legal dispute that went before the Texas Supreme Court yesterday: Should her parents have been granted their wish to withhold treatment from the baby? Or was the hospital obligated to do what it could to keep her alive?
"This case is not about mercy killing," said Sidney's father, Mark Miller. "This is a simple consent case in which the hospital tried to play God while not understanding that role has already been filled."
Laws in most states are vague on the issue, and Dr. Jean Steichen, who works in high-risk infant follow-up at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, said the medical community is watching the case closely.
"There's going to be a precedent, because there was a legal case for doctors to intervene and there also was a basis for parental rights," Dr. Steichen said.
Sidney was born Aug. 17, 1990, at Women's Hospital in Houston, more than four months early. Doctors warned the family that if Sidney lived, she faced a high risk of severe disabilities, and that resuscitation could result in suffering for the child.
The Millers decided that "no heroic measures" should be taken to save her. The doctors noted it in the file.
"We did not want any pain and suffering for the child. No parent wants that," Mr. Miller said.
The hospital, however, concluded that state and federal laws required resuscitation attempts for the girl. Its own policy called for lifesaving efforts for any child born weighing at least 500 grams, or about 1.1 pounds. An ultrasound indicated Sidney weighed about 1.4 pounds.
Once Sidney was delivered, doctors moved to keep the child alive. Because she was born without fully developed lungs, doctors used a throat tube to pump oxygen into her body.
The family says the treatment resulted in brain hemorrhaging that left Sidney severely disabled and needing 24-hour care that already has cost more than $1 million. Hospital officials say the disabilities resulted from severe internal injuries unrelated to the resuscitation.
The Millers sued the hospital and its parent, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., for negligence and battery. A jury awarded the Millers $60 million in 1998.
The verdict was overturned by an appeals court, which said the parents could have refused treatment only if the baby's condition had been terminal.
In appealing their case to the Texas Supreme Court, the Millers say state and common law allowed them to withhold treatment. Under the Texas Family Code, parents have "the right to consent" to a child's medical care.
But HCA argued in court papers that once the child was born, the Family Code entitled her to receive medical care that would allow her to live.
Several Houston-area Baptist and Jewish leaders have sided with the Millers, arguing the court should protect the sanctity of the family.

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