An Alabama mother has removed her 13-year-old son, Alex Hoover, from public school after school officials said they would not agree to follow orders in his advance directive. The teen suffers from a terminal illness and his mother, Rene Hoover, wants school officials to honor their wishes not to resuscitate the child if his heart stops beating during the school day. Instead, the mother wants them to allow her son to die. However, the school says they can not honor those wishes, as the teen is not yet an adult.
The Daily Mail reports that 13-year-old Alex Hoover suffers from a terminal heart condition called aortic and mitral valve stenosis. The autistic teen has been hospitalized numerous times for his condition, and has expressed wishes not to go through the torment of medical intervention anymore. The mother, Rene Hoover, says that doctors have told her that the most “humane” thing to do if her son has another heart problem is to allow him to die peacefully, as medical intervention will not change the prognosis that he will eventually die from the condition. Rene says she doesn’t want her son’s last days spent in fear at a hospital. Therefore, she had a legal advance directive written up for her son.
However, when Rene presented the advance directive, which includes a do-not-resuscitate order, to school officials, they informed the woman that they would not be able to agree to these terms. The school claims that they are obligated to resuscitate the teen in a case of medical emergency, despite the advance directive being on file with the school. They note that the law regarding do-not-resuscitate orders do not apply to anyone under the age of 19. Therefore, they claim legal obligation to do all in their power to ensure the teen does not die, which includes resuscitation measures in the event of a heart failure while at school. With the debate between the mother and school district going nowhere, Rene decided to remove Alex from the school so that his advance directive could be honored at home. In the meantime, a teacher is being sent to Alex’s home three days a week for tutoring and to provide classroom work.
Interestingly, Rene Hoover is an emergency room technician. She claims her medical background is what has helped her come to the decision to write up the advance directive for her terminally-ill son. She notes that medically, her son’s heart will not be able to keep up with his growth spurts, and that his condition has progressively gotten worse over the last year. She says it is only a matter of time before her son passes, and she wants to ensure that time is not spent in pain in the hospital.
“The last procedure we had done, it took us three weeks to get him to go to bed at night because he was afraid that if he went to sleep he would wake up and something would be wrong or that he’d be hurt. He would have to live his fears every single day.”
Alabama State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa Valdes-Hubert claims that the state itself has no laws or regulations in regards to advance directives and the school system. She notes that it is completely up to each school district to determine if they will follow advance directive orders on their premises. Likewise, there is no federal law touching on the subject. Therefore, it seems that the school district is attempting to err on the side of caution by making a blanket order that all students must be given all medical treatment possible in a bid to save the student’s life, regardless of parental wishes.
Alex’s school district’s special education director, Tara Bachus, says that without specific state or federal law regarding the subject, the school is opting to follow “standard medical procedure” for all students, which means that staff would attempt to resuscitate the teen should he fall ill on the school grounds.
“With an absence of a federal or state policy governing advance directives or do not resuscitate, school systems have to rely on procedures that are in place in the school.”
What do you think about the school’s stance on the advanced directive? Should schools honor the wishes of students and parents if a terminally-ill student presents a do-not-resuscitate order? Or is homeschooling the best option for students with these particular circumstances?
[Image via Facebook / Rene Hoover]