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Doctors Say Baby Should Be Taken Off Life Support

The father of the comatose 1-year-old faces abuse charges, which could become a murder count if the child dies.

October 22, 2002|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Two doctors testified Monday that an Orange County boy will never recover from brain injuries allegedly inflicted by his father and said they believe he should be removed from life support. The testimony came at the opening of a hearing on the fate of 1-year-old Christopher Ibarra, who has been in a coma and on life support from the day he was carried into an emergency room 10 months ago.

The boy's mother, Tamara Sepulveda, has been fighting for months to have her son removed from the ventilator that pumps oxygen into his lungs, saying that she wants to end his suffering and "let him go to heaven."

Christopher's father, Moises Ibarra, who faces child abuse charges and is being held in Orange County Jail, opposes the efforts, arguing that he wants to preserve the boy's life while he hopes for a miracle. Tamara Sepulveda has said she believes the father has an ulterior motive: If the boy dies, Ibarra probably will be charged with murder.

Superior Court Judge Richard Behn is attempting to resolve the matter. The first two witnesses were doctors from Children's Hospital of Orange County. They testified that they believe Christopher will never wake from his coma and would almost certainly die if removed from life-support machines.

"He won't have [a] meaningful life. This is the way Christopher will be," said Dr. David Hicks, who testified after visiting Christopher at a long-term care hospital in Tustin.

At the hearing, the boy's parents sat about eight feet apart but did not look at each other.

Christopher's father has pleaded not guilty to felony child abuse and is awaiting trial.

Outside the courtroom, Tamara Sepulveda said she has stopped visiting her son because she can't stand the emotional pain. "I'm hurt inside.... Any parent would be," she said. "It's tough on me to see my son like this."

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