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Judge Clears Way for Alien Boy, 5, to Get a New Liver

April 09, 1988|BOB JAMES | Times Staff Writer

A Pasadena Superior Court judge cleared the way Friday for Armando Vargas, a 5-year-old Mexican boy suffering from chronic liver disease, to obtain a state-paid operation previously denied him.

California Children's Services, a branch of the state Department of Health Services, had argued that the boy was not a legal U.S. resident and did not qualify for state funds to pay for the $150,000 operation.

After news accounts about the case, a group called the Right to Life Committee, intervened. A guardianship was established so Vargas would qualify as a legal U.S. resident.

'An Exciting Victory'

On Friday, Judge Robert Olsen denied a California Children's Services motion to vacate the guardianship, thus opening the door for the operation to proceed.

"It's an exciting victory," said Susan Carpenter-McMillan, Right to Life Committee spokeswoman.

Sharon Yackey, deputy Los Angeles County counsel representing Children's Services, said the ruling was not a total defeat since the judge ruled that Vargas was not a legal resident. But since he is a ward of a legal guardian who is a resident, he still qualifies for the funding.

"It was very unusual," Yackey said of the ruling, adding that she hoped the case "doesn't open the floodgates" to other foreign nationals seeking free medical care. Yackey said Children's Services will not appeal the ruling and already has approved funding for the operation.

Yackey also said she called doctors at UCLA Medical Center to advise them that Vargas could be placed on the donor list for a new liver. UCLA officials had ruled that the boy qualified medically for the donor list but could not actually be placed on it until payment was assured.

Vargas and his family came to California seven weeks ago from their home in central Mexico. The family had tried to have the transplant performed in Texas, but officials there also refused funding.

Doctors said the boy can only live several months without the operation. He was hospitalized at UCLA after he suffered internal bleeding.

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