The Plight of 5-Month-Old Sun Hudson

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Mar. 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight, with the Schiavo case getting massive attention, the plight of baby Sun Hudson has gone largely unnoticed. The 5-month-old Texas boy was ordered removed from a ventilator over the objections of his mother, Wanda Hudson, and he died shortly after that. That was allowed to happen because Texas has a law which allows medical personnel to make the final call over life and death, and the baby had a genetic disorder that prevented his lungs from growing.

Damali Keith, a reporter for FOX 26 News in Houston, spoke with Mrs. Hudson:


WANDA HUDSON, BABY TAKEN OFF LIFE SUPPORT: I was holding my son, and they took him off the ventilator, and he breathed his last breath.

DAMALI KEITH, FOX 26 REPORTER (voice-over): In a private room in intensive care, 5 1/2-month-old Sun was removed from life support, bringing his short life to an end.

HUDSON: He opened his eyes, while he was in my arms, before they took him off had the ventilator. He smiled.

KEITH: Wanda Hudson spent the last hours of her son's life here at Texas Children's Hospital (search) holding him.

HUDSON: I talked to him. I told him I love him. I told him that we'll always be together.

KEITH: The baby was taken off life support after a long legal battle. Texas Children's wanted to end the baby's "suffering" because hospital officials say Sun was born with a fatal illness where his lungs would never fully grow. But the baby's mother says she doesn't believe in sickness. She does, however, believe her baby was a gift from the sun.

HUDSON: The sun that shines in the skies revealed himself to me.

KEITH: Hudson says after the ventilator was removed, she held on to her baby as long as she could.

HUDSON: I was holding him, hugging him, kissing him, telling him I loved him still.

KEITH (on camera): Hudson says a funeral is being planned for her baby boy, but she says she won't attend because she doesn't believe in death.


O'REILLY: Joining us now from Houston is William Winslade, a bioethicist who teaches at the University of Texas-Galveston, and Mario Caballero, the attorney representing Wanda Hudson.

The law is pretty clear in Texas, Counselor, that the, you know, medical authorities have a right to do what they did to baby Sun. What was your contention in the matter? How did you try to save the baby?

MARIO CABALLERO, ATTORNEY FOR WANDA HUDSON: Well, one of the things that we did — we tried several ways of trying to keep him alive, but one of the arguments was that the hospital had not stabilized the child enough to allow for a transfer, a safe transfer to another facility.

The other one was that the child was still under emergency care, and Texas law prohibits persons who need emergency care and who don't have the resources to pay for them to remain under the care of the hospital.

And we also argued that we wanted an extension of time to permit a transfer to occur.

O'REILLY: All right, but you didn't dispute the fact that the child's lungs weren't going to grow and that ultimately he was going to die?

CABALLERO: Well, yes, we did, and, in fact, we subpoenaed the doctors from the hospital to present themselves in court and to explain the condition of the child, including the futility argument that the hospital was putting forth.

The hospital moved to quash the subpoenas. They barred the testimony from many of their doctors. The judge agreed with them, prohibited any kind of evidentiary hearing, and that was one of the problems that we had.

On appeal, we argued that that was wrong, among other things that happened in the courtroom.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Winslade, how do you see this? If what the counselor is saying is true, the baby might have survived? Was there one chance that the baby could have survived, in your opinion?

WILLIAM WINSLADE, PH.D., BIOETHICIST AND ATTORNEY: There was virtually no chance that the baby would survive, but what is troubling is that this case ended up as a legal battle rather than something that one would hope could be negotiated and mediated without going into the courts. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But this baby was destined to die.

O'REILLY: All right. But it's almost like the Schiavo case. You know, you want them — the families to cooperate and all of that. They don't. It goes into court.

But Texas law is different than Florida law. And this is interesting. I want to tell everybody that, in 1999, then Governor Bush in Texas signed the Advanced Directives Act which made a patient's guardian the end-of-life decision maker.

But, four years later, in 2003, that law was amended to allow doctors to make the final call, Mr. Winslade. Why did that happen?

WINSLADE: No, that's not — that's not quite correct. It allows the doctors to say that in their professional unanimous opinion that they don't believe it's medically appropriate to continue the life support, but they don't make the final decision. They...

O'REILLY: Well, it goes to a medical ethics board then, right?

WINSLADE: And the ethics board — if the ethics board agrees with the physicians, then they tell the patient or the patient's representative that they are free to transfer the patient to another facility willing to take care of them, but that hospital and those physicians will not continue to be...

O'REILLY: OK, but very rarely does another hospital accept that kind of a patient, as you know. So it's almost a death sentence to get — if the — but I'm not disputing the law. I mean, if you have doctors and then it goes before a board and they say, look, you've got to go with the medical people — that was my Schiavo thesis in the beginning.

Now, Counselor, do you feel that your client's, Wanda's rights, were violated here and the baby's rights were violated ,because I don't know if another hospital would have taken this baby. Would — did you have another hospital lined up?

CABALLERO: Well, we tried to get a transfer to happen. Part of the problem with transferring persons from one hospital to another is that the hospitals are the ones that — they don't take a transfer request from an individual.

O'REILLY: Right.

CABALLERO: It has to come from the hospital. The hospitals communicate to each other, and we were having an adversarial relationship with the hospital. But the — I think her rights were violated. These are decisions that the mother ought to make, and what really happened here is not an ethical issue.

O'REILLY: But let me interrupt. Let me interrupt you here. You saw — we saw Wanda, and she's obviously distraught over it, anybody would be, but she doesn't believe in death and still feels the baby's alive. So I'm trying to say to myself, look, if the baby's going to die, there's no hope for the baby, as all the doctors said, the medical board, you know.

Do you have to then keep the baby alive because the mother won't accept the verdict? I mean, that's basically what it's about, isn't it?

CABALLERO: Well, I think the doctors ought to put themselves up on the stand and explain why they felt that the child was not going to make it. There have been survivors of the disease that the child had and the child continued to live to the very last day. The reason the child died was because the hospital...

O'REILLY: But he lived on a ventilator and wasn't going to get off it, according to the doctors.

I'm going to give Mr. Winslade the last word.

Do you think justice was done for baby Sun?

WINSLADE: I think that Wanda Hudson had every opportunity to have her case heard before the courts. Mr. Caballero did an excellent job of representing her interests, but, in the end, I think that the right thing was done, sad though it was.

O'REILLY: All right. Gentlemen, thanks very much. We appreciate it. And, again, each state has a different law about right to die.

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