A couple took their 4-month-old baby boy home from the hospital this month after battling both hospital officials, who urged them to “unplug” their son’s life-support system, and social workers, who considered taking custody of the child because the parents refused to take government handouts to pay their medical bills.
Last January, Joshua and Noelle Goforth were on a ski vacation in Colorado when their son, William, arrived more than three months premature. Weighing in at just 1 pound, 4 ounces, William Reid Goforth immediately was put on life-support systems. Doctors at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs then recommended pulling the plug on little William.
“They were of the strong opinion that we discontinue life support,” said Joshua Goforth, 22. “The doctors said things like, ‘He’s trying to die’ and ‘It’s not fair to him'” as they argued for ending the baby’s life.
The Goforths, however, decided to keep their first-born son alive, a decision, Goforth says, that “stressed out” the medical staff at Memorial Hospital.
At 7 days old, William had an EEG test to measure brain activity. The doctors used the results of the test – indicating the baby had little brain activity – to further argue for removing him from the machinery keeping him alive. The Goforths remained resolute while researching the issue of “brain death.” Later, they found that, in Goforth’s words, “the usefulness of EEG readings of preemies is practically nil.”
After his decision to continue his son’s life, says Goforth, the staff at the hospital indicated they would no longer care for the baby.
“They sort of said, ‘We can’t in good conscience take care of him,'” Goforth told WorldNetDaily.
One of the hospital’s reasons was that the Goforths refused to take advantage of the “dozens of government programs” that were offered to them. Since the Goforths had no health insurance coverage, they were considered “self-pay” customers, and Goforth figures the hospital didn’t want to take on that kind of liability.
Besides the hospital staff, some of the Goforths’ friends also questioned their decision not to accept government help with the cost of keeping the baby alive. But Goforth doesn’t believe it’s the government’s role to pay people’s hospital bills.
“The liability lies with me,” explained Goforth. “It’s not the government’s role to provide for these needs. There are consequences to the government stepping into that role.”
Despite the hospital’s skepticism, and thanks to effective fund-raising efforts, Goforth is $10,000 away from paying off his bill to the facility. Though the total debt is approximately $124,000, the hospital agreed to accept just $50,000 – $40,000 of which has now been paid.
At 10 days old, William was transferred to Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, the Goforth’s hometown. Before the trip, another EEG was done, this time indicating definite brain activity.
Goforth reports that the first few days in San Antonio, where William had heart surgery to close a valve, went surprisingly well. Before the surgery, however, Goforth heard a replay of comments he had received at the Colorado hospital.
“It’s not right to keep this baby on life support,” Goforth quotes Dr. Melvin Baden as saying. Baden is the head of the neonatology unit at Methodist Hospital. In a meeting with Baden and another doctor, Goforth was told he was “playing God” and “making a big mistake” by continuing to keep the baby alive. The “heroic measures” being used simply were not justified, the doctors advised.
The heart surgery, however, went well, and the Goforths stuck with their decision to leave little William on life-support.
The health-care professionals continued their campaign to end the baby’s life, discussing the option of scheduling a hearing before the hospital’s ethics committee.
“I’d never heard of an ethics committee,” Goforth said. “That scared me.”
The committee was to consist of hospital staff, a chaplain, the baby’s parents, social workers and a pastor. While such a committee’s decisions are not binding, if the Goforths were to go against it, that fact could be used later during any court proceedings.
Said Goforth, “I perceived the committee as a threat. Dr. Baden had a ‘Dr. God complex.'”
An ethics committee was never organized because shortly after Baden brought up the possibility, William’s case was transferred to another doctor, Amil Ortiz, M.D., whom Goforth described as “pleasant to work with” and “very kind.”
About a month later, however, Ortiz rotated out of the hospital and Baden again became the doctor supervising William’s care.
When William turned 2 months old, hospital staff asked that his parents sign the approval for him to get routine vaccinations. The Goforths decided that they would wait until their son was discharged to get the vaccinations, when he would be larger and stronger.
“It was not necessary to put additional strain on his system,” Goforth commented.
Hospital staff was more than persistent in wanting to get the OK to vaccinate the baby. Although Goforth told nurses several times that he would not give approval, the father’s wishes were not noted on William’s chart.
Goforth says Baden told Noelle, 25, “Your baby must be vaccinated, whether you consent to it or not. It’s a state requirement.”
Baden, according to Goforth, became so upset about not receiving approval to vaccinate the baby that he nearly lost his composure and told Goforth he would turn him into Child Protective Services.
Goforth’s response: “You will be hearing from my lawyers.”
The other issue the hospital pursued – as in Colorado – was the matter of payment for services.
Goforth made it clear to hospital workers that he would be making payments against his debt and that he would, eventually, pay off whatever bill he accrued. The hospital, Goforth says, set up a meeting to discuss finances. Present were two social workers, a case manager and two other hospital staff members. Goforth brought along his attorney, which proved to be a wise choice.
According to Goforth, “the social workers assumed that I would not be able to provide financially for William in the future, because of the debt burden I would be shouldering.” They told him, therefore, that they were going to have to contact CPS.
One of the social workers, Jan Woodridge, became extremely upset with Doug Phillips, Goforth’s legal counsel, and left the meeting “with a strained smile,” according to William’s dad. Gorforth says Woodridge promised to contact Phillips before filing a complaint with CPS – a promise she did not keep.
Neither Woodridge nor Baden returned multiple calls from WorldNetDaily requesting comment.
Goforth claims there were several “false allegations” in the CPS report and that issues other than the vaccination matter were included.
At the meeting with Kira Schumm of the Bexar County CPS, Goforth again brought along legal help, this time attorney Jeff Gately. Schumm read from the report but was not allowed to give Goforth a copy.
According to Goforth, the report claimed William was blind, unable to bottle feed and “severely brain damaged,” none of which is true, Goforth contends. What was worse, he says, was the “character assassination” portion of the complaint.
“They claimed we were part of a ‘cult-like’ patriarchal organization,” said Goforth, “and that we believed women should not have opinions regarding [William’s] care.”
Goforth also said the report claims he and Noelle refused to divulge the location of their church – another lie, he maintains.
The county officials found no reason to pursue the case, and it was later closed.
William eventually was vaccinated but not until just before he was discharged from the hospital on June 3, just as his parents had requested.
Despite the hurdles and burdens the Goforths have endured – along with the stress of having a son with serious medical needs – they remain optimistic about William’s future.
“He’s doing much better than anticipated,” Goforth told WND. “Hospital staff say he’s a miracle.”
At this point in William’s short life, Goforth commented, the medical experts no longer bring up “quality of life” issues.
William recently returned home from Houston after traveling there for two eye surgeries. His father says the operations – meant to create an environment in which a detached retina can reattach itself – were successful, but that it’s unclear as yet how good the baby’s vision will be.
The financial challenge facing the Goforths is enormous. While $120,000 has been raised toward hospital bills – much of it through the efforts of Vision Forum, Joshua’s former employer – he expects a total bill of around $1 million for expenses incurred since moving William to San Antonio.
“I’ll probably be paying off the bill for the next 30 years,” speculated Goforth, who owns his own graphic and Web design business.
Those wishing to help with the Goforths’ obligation can go to a page on the Vision Forum website set up to take donations.