RENO, Nev. (AP) — A 20-year-old college freshman whose hospital treatment spurred an end-of-life court battle has died at a Reno hospital while still on life support, her family’s lawyer said Tuesday.
Aden Hailu, of Las Vegas, died about 4:30 p.m. Monday at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, where she never awoke from anesthesia after surgery in April, said David O’Mara, the attorney representing Hailu’s father and family.
O’Mara said the family was told the cause was respiratory failure.
The Washoe County coroner was notified of the death but doesn’t plan a public autopsy, said Lynn Sack, aide to Coroner Ellen Clark. Sack said that because the death was at the hospital, a public autopsy isn’t required.
Saint Mary’s Hospital and Medical Center declined to immediately comment about the case. Spokeswoman Jamii Uboldi cited patient privacy provisions of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
Uboldi said administrators think they need Hailu’s father, Fanuel Gebreyes, or a legal representative to approve letting them talk about Hailu’s death.
Hailu was a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno. Saint Mary’s said she suffered severe low blood pressure and a lack of oxygen to the brain during the April 1 surgery to remove her appendix and explore the cause of unspecified abdominal pain, according to court documents.
Doctors at Saint Mary’s pronounced Hailu dead May 28, but the father appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court to delay the removal of life-support.
Justices ruled in November that Washoe County Family Court Judge Frances Doherty was too quick when she rejected the family’s bid to keep Hailu on life-support. The Supreme Court sent the case back to Doherty for more hearings.
Last week, Gebreyes lost a court bid to delay brain electroencephalogram, or EEG, tests that the hospital said would show Hailu was brain dead and wouldn’t recover.
Doherty gave Saint Mary’s the go-ahead to conduct brain wave tests but indicated she wouldn’t rule until at least Jan. 22 on the question of life or death.
O’Mara said Tuesday it didn’t appear the tests had been done and he had no more immediate information.
O’Mara earlier accused the hospital of wanting to end life-support to cut costs. He said Gebreyes felt that as long as there was a chance Hailu was alive, the hospital should treat her or find a place that would.
Attorneys representing the hospital argued it was unfair to force the hospital to treat Hailu indefinitely. The hospital said money wasn’t the issue, but that administrators needed to respect doctors’ medical judgment.
The judge last week said she wanted both sides to submit arguments about whether additional EEG, CT scan and eye reflex tests should be performed.
Saint Mary’s doctors said three EEG tests conducted during the first two weeks of April showed declining brain function, and no EEG tests were performed after that.
Gebreyes, meanwhile, refused to consent to new brain wave tests. He insisted that Hailu needed treatment, not tests, including thyroid medication and a tracheostomy so she could receive nutrition through her throat, not just intravenous fluids.
The judge told the father he could move Hailu to another facility if he wanted, but O’Mara had told The Associated Press the family couldn’t find a place to take her.