tampabay.com

Doctors can treat boy without mom's say

A judge adds to her order after the mother allegedly refused to let her son be given medicine.

By CARRIE RITCHIE
Published May 30, 2007


DADE CITY - The mother of a 10-year-old boy who is fighting court-ordered cancer treatment lost even more control over her son's health Tuesday.

Judge Linda H. Babb ruled that doctors can treat 10-year-old Daniel Gomez without talking to his mom, Natasha Esteras, expanding an April 13 ruling that forced Daniel to have radiation and chemotherapy.

Esteras made headlines last month by refusing to take her son for followup cancer treatment after he had a tumor removed. She said chemo and radiation would only make Daniel sicker.

That stance landed her in front of Babb, who ordered the boy treated. Daniel is currently at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg recovering from sinusitis.

Now if Esteras wants to know how her son is being treated, she must set an appointment with doctors or contact them in writing. Esteras can only consult her son's doctors in front of him if there is a psychologist present to ensure Daniel isn't "traumatized," Babb said Tuesday.

If doctors need to give him treatment outside the "normal standard of care" for his illness, they must ask the court, not Esteras, Babb said. Esteras must bring Daniel to his appointments on time, or contact Child Protection Services to take him.

Esteras was brought to court in an emergency hearing May 14 to address her punctuality problem.

Babb also amended the court order, which she originally wrote, to ensure Daniel sees a psychologist during his treatment and that Esteras' boyfriend doesn't interfere with Daniel's treatment.

State attorneys also asked to have Daniel put in a shelter, but Babb denied the request, saying it would cause him unnecessary stress that could affect his health. However, she said she might reconsider if Esteras continues to interfere with treatment.

The amendments came at an emergency hearing Tuesday afternoon. The hearing was called because state attorneys D.J. Dalton and Jennifer Barbookles feared Esteras was preventing Daniel from taking his medicine and getting necessary treatment, despite the court order.

During the hearing, several of Daniel's doctors testified on speaker phone that Esteras had refused to let them give the boy the medication he needed and expressed doubt that she had given him his medication at home. They also said Esteras hadn't sought radiation treatment and tried to stop them from giving Daniel a blood transfusion when his life was on the line.

But Esteras said she hadn't refused treatment and had actually encouraged her son to take medicine. She said she asked his doctors to give him an appetite stimulant because he was losing so much weight.

"When I take him, I don't deny or refuse treatment," she said. "I ask questions, and that seems to be a problem at times. I love my son and I care for him."

Daniel has rhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant tumor that can spread quickly and mostly affects children. Doctors removed a tumor from his testicles in February and tests show he has been cancer-free since. However, doctors said that without continuing radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer would likely return.