A judge so overcome with emotion that he had to leave the bench sided with the mother of a 12-year-old cancer victim, denying the father's request for risky surgery that may not prolong the boy's life.
"This ruling cannot be read as a condemnation of one parent over the other," Cook County Judge Thomas J. O'Brien said Thursday. "The evidence was overwhelming that both are loving parents."Saying the boy "is tragically too young to die," O'Brien choked up after delivering his ruling and rushed from the bench to his chambers. He returned soon afterward.
The ruling gives Miriam Soloveichik the authority to determine her son's medical treatment in accordance with doctors' recommendations.
Doctors at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, where Yisroel Soloveichik has been hospitalized since being diagnosed with brain-stem cancer two years ago, said he probably has less than two months to live.
The parents, both Orthodox Jews from the North Side, told the court they were motivated by deep, religious convictions.
The father, a rabbi, said he believes everything humanly possible must be done to prolong life. The mother, the daughter of a rabbi, said she believes there are limits to prolonging death.
Moshe Soloveichik, 39, the boy's father, had sought a surgical procedure to help drain fluid from the child's brain to relieve pressure.
He felt surgery "would prolong the boy's life without exposing him to any prolonged suffering," said Howard London, Soloveichik's attorney.
Doctors, however, said surgery could be risky and may not prolong his life.
Soloveichik was "very disappointed" by the ruling but had not decided whether to appeal, London said.
"There are few winners in a case like this. This is a genuine tragedy if there ever was one," said Christopher Cohen, the mother's attorney.
"The only winner, if there is one, is the boy, in that he will be allowed to die in comfortable surroundings."
The boy is on a respirator and fed intravenously. He is unable to communicate or hear.
O'Brien's ruling specifies that life support systems now in use are not to be withdrawn.
"Neither of the parents suggested withdrawing any existing life-support procedures. This is not what is colloquially called a `pull-the-plug' case," Cohen said.
"There are no reported cases in the United States exactly like this," with parents suing each other over medical treatment for a terminally ill child," he added in a telephone interview after the ruling.
The Chicago couple, who have four other children and are still living together, filed lawsuits against each other last week.
The father asked the court to give him sole custody of the boy so he could approve the surgery. Doctors at Rush opposed it, so Soloveichik proposed having it performed at another hospital.
In her lawsuit, Mrs. Soloveichik sought to prohibit the surgery and keep the boy at Rush.
The judge ruled in her favor, against a transfer.
Catherine Ryan, an attorney for the hospital, called the ruling "very thoughtful, very caring . . . and correct."