Thirteen-year-old Jean-Pierre Bosze died of leukemia here Monday, two months after losing a bitter, landmark legal battle over whether relatives could be forced to undergo medical procedures which might have helped save his life.
In a tangled courtroom drama involving love, desperation and spite, the youngster’s father, Tamas Bosze, had sought an order requiring blood tests for Jean-Pierre’s half brother and half sister, 3-year-old twins, to determine if they might be compatible bone marrow donors.
Tamas Bosze fathered all three children. The mother of the twins, Nancy Curran, refused to allow them to be tested, arguing that such tests could lead to a transplant itself. And that, she said, could subject the twins not only to pain but the slight risk of life-threatening complications from anesthesia.
Jean-Pierre’s doctors warned that he would certainly die without a transplant. Still, Cook County Circuit Judge Monica Reynolds ruled in August that it would be an invasion of the twins’ privacy to order tests on them against their will, even if that meant dooming their half brother. In September, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed that ruling, though it has yet to release a promised written opinion explaining the decision.
Ed Jordan, an attorney for Tamas Bosze, said Jean-Pierre had reconciled himself to his fate. “He didn’t want to die, but he knew he would,” Jordan said. “He was pretty much at peace. There was no bitterness, no anger. He didn’t blame anybody. He figured if God was going to take him, then it was his time to go.”
As for Tamas Bosze, he was “quite distressed” at the loss of his son but bore “no anger, no malice” toward Curran, Jordan said. Attempts to reach Curran and her attorney, Beverly Pekala, were unsuccessful.
Despite the compelling life-and-death questions raised by the court struggle, the case was clearly colored by lingering animosity between Curran and the elder Bosze, a suburban tavern owner who has been married twice and fathered five children by four different women. Doctors had ruled out Bosze’s other two children as suitable donors.
At one time, Curran and Bosze were engaged. But he broke off the relationship while Curran was pregnant with the twins. After they were born, Bosze refused to acknowledge paternity, forcing Curran to go on public aid while she waged a 16-month court fight to win child support for the very children he later sought to have tested.
In recent years, bone marrow transplants have become increasingly important weapons in the fight against leukemia, lymphomas and several other forms of cancer. Victims who fail to respond to other treatments can sometimes be saved by transplants.
Patients are given massive amounts of chemotherapy to kill abnormal cells that have resisted normal doses. The process kills bone marrow, but transplants can often restore the substance. Sometimes the patient’s own marrow can be used, but often, as in the case of Jean-Pierre, transplants from donors are necessary. However, finding compatible donor marrow is difficult. The closer the blood relationship between donor and recipient, the greater the odds of compatibility and the less chance that the recipient’s body will reject the new marrow.
By last month, bone marrow registries had located four people who might be compatible donors for Jean-Pierre, Jordan said. By that time, he said, doctors had determined the boy was too ill to survive with anything but a transplant from a close relative. However, other doctors who testified for Curran at the trial had said Jean-Pierre would probably die even if he had a transplant.
Jordan said Jean-Pierre’s dilemma illustrated how the American justice system is ill equipped to deal with rapid developments in medicine. “We have medical science making wonderful advances, but the law is years and years behind medicine in defining rights and implementing ways to make use of technology,” he said.