Facility, agency tussle over man’s care

Desert Springs Hospital and the government continue to wrangle in the courts over a man in a persistent vegetative state at the facility who is thought to be in the federal Witness Protection Program.

The hospital is asking the U.S. District Court to appoint the Nevada Public Guardian to handle possible transfer of John Doe, as he is being referred to in court papers, to another medical care facility if no adults will step forward and claim him, according to court documents.

The U.S. attorney general’s office was sued by Desert Springs last year for John Doe’s identity and at least $75,000 in medical expenses. The office is asking the court to deny the hospital’s request for a public guardian and seeking that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The U.S. attorney’s office argues that the federal court does not have jurisdiction over the case and that the attorney general does not have jurisdiction over John Doe and therefore is not liable for medical expenses.

Hospital officials think they have some inkling as to his identity and home country. How they’ve ascertained this has not been revealed, and hospital officials said they could not comment on the matter.

Desert Springs filed its original lawsuit in June after a Uruguayan medical facility offered to take in the man and provide him daily custodial care as long as he is breathing. But before he can be transferred, the Uruguayan government requires verification that he is from the country.

The hospital had contacted Carlos Gitto, consul general of Uruguay in Los Angeles and senior Uruguayan diplomat in the Western United States, for help locating John Doe’s family in Uruguay. But a name provided to Gitto did not turn up anyone born in that country.

The man has been at Desert Springs in a vegetative state for nearly three years.

Relatives in the United States and who have been contacted by the hospital want nothing to do with John Doe, court documents said.

Desert Springs also contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to try and determine John Doe’s residency and immigration status. According to the lawsuit, after checking John Doe’s fingerprints through a national database, it was learned he was a member of the Witness Protection Program.

Hospital officials contacted the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but to no avail.

Desert Springs has until Jan. 15 to respond to the motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Wondering how a story turned out or what happened to someone in the news? Call the City Desk, (702) 383-0264, and we will try to answer your question in this column.

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