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Mother Allowed to Refuse AIDS Drugs for Son

September 15, 1998| Associated Press

BANGOR, Maine — A mother who feared powerful AIDS drugs would kill her HIV-infected 4-year-old son rather than extend his life won the right Monday to refuse treatment for the boy.

A state judge refused to give custody of Nikolas Emerson to the state Department of Human Services, which had argued his mother was jeopardizing his health.

Valerie Emerson had said she saw her 3-year-old daughter go through an agonizing death while on the drug AZT, and she did not want Nikolas to suffer the same way. She had no immediate comment on the ruling.

Emerson, 27, is infected with the AIDS virus herself and has also stopped taking medication. She gave Nikolas the virus at birth.

Emerson's attorney, Hilary Billings, said Judge Douglas Clapp found insufficient evidence that the boy's health was in jeopardy from being denied medical treatment.

Clapp also found that the evidence suggests the combination of drugs is still experimental and carried the risk of side effects while not guaranteeing a positive outcome, Billings said.

The so-called AIDS cocktail has improved the health of many AIDS patients by suppressing the virus. During Thursday's hearing, however, two scientists testified that AZT and other powerful drugs would overwhelm Nikolas' immune system and kill him faster than if he were left alone.

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