Grandfather wants euthanasia legalized in Texas

Family watched toddler die for 9 days after feeding tube removed

Out of sight for a couple minutes, Natalie Newton fell into a pool, only to be discovered by family a few minutes later.

"She was purple and blue and we started emergency resuscitation," said Natalie's grandfather, Brad Newton.

She was taken to a Corpus Christi hospital, where doctors performed a procedure called hypothermia therapy, which, according to Newton, was unsuccessful.

"When she woke up, she had cognitive blindness, deafness and she was quadriplegic," Newton said.

He was told his granddaughter -- Natty, as she was called -- had a 4 percent chance to live, if she survived the next year.

"She had multiple organ failures on the way (and) had just a slew of things immediately, (including) a tracheotomy," Newton said.

Wanting to end Natty's suffering, the Newton family appealed to the hospital's ethics committee to end her life.

"Their decision was unanimous across the board that removing the feeding tube for (the) end of life was the humane thing to do," Newton said.

He described the next week as a "carnival of insanity," in which he took his grandbaby home to let her die by depriving her of hydration and nutrition.

"When you see the weight going, that's when it just gets horrible," Newton said. "On Day 5, I can't do it anymore, and so I tell hospice, 'I'm feeding her.'"

Newton said he decided to begin feeding Natty again, but hospice workers told him it was too late, and that Natty's body would reject the food.

The next four days were excruciating, he said, watching Natty diminish and enter into a delusional state.

"If death is inevitable, and this is the humane thing to do, why can't you do it humanely?" Newton said.

As controversial as it may be, Newton said he now sees euthanasia as compassionate -- as compared to the extended period of starvation and dehydration that he said the board approved.

Dr. Sara Austin, a member of the Council on Legislation for the Texas Medical Association, said while this case is extremely sad and rare, she doesn't see the TMA lobbying to legalize euthanasia.

"I haven't run across a case where I felt like to actually be compassionate and to treat this person with dignity, that I needed to hasten their death," Austin said.

There are four states in the U.S. that allow assisted suicide, but there are no states where euthanasia is legal.

If you'd like to know more about Natty and her family's plight to change laws, visit www.thenattyfoundation.com.

To see an extended interview with Newton, click here.

For a list of recent stories April Molina has done, click here.

Click here to view more videos on KSAT.com.