A University of Michigan hospital removed a teenager from life support Tuesday after a legal appeal was dismissed by a Washtenaw County Court in Ann Arbor.
Bobby Reyes, age 14 (pictured above), went into cardiac arrest when an asthma attack failed to respond to his inhaler on September 21. His mother had driven him to a nearby fire station, where he collapsed. She administered CPR, and he was airlifted to Mott’s Children’s Hospital.
When the hospital declared him brain dead during the following week, the family obtained a court order to delay removal of life support, saying their son was showing signs of improvement. Hospital, family, and others searched for a facility willing to accept Bobby’s transfer for ongoing care.
Tuesday’s 10 am hearing was delayed during a consultation in chambers. In a brief statement, Judge David S. Swartz dismissed the case, which properly belonged before a Court of Claims.
“If the court doesn’t have jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has made it clear that I have no authority to do anything,” he said. “I cannot order a stay as has been requested. I am totally without the power to do so.”
William Amadeo, counsel for the family, had taken over the case pro bono after the initial filing.
“I do not think a procedural error should be the reason this young man does not have a chance at life,” he said after the hearing. “This could be the end – I hope and pray not.” He left immediately to file an appeal for a stay at Detroit’s Court of Appeals.
According to family statements, by 11:36 p.m. and against their wishes, Mott’s Children’s Hospital proceeded with tests required by Michigan law to declare brain death.
The hospital scheduled removing ventilator support at 2 pm and issued a death certificate by 3 p.m.
“The University of Michigan just killed my son,” Sarah Lynn Jones posted on social media. “Our lawyer Bill had papers at the courthouse in his hand that could have saved him but they rushed this whole thing so fast. Bobby is gone…”
The hospital, owned by the University of Michigan, released a statement.
I just received this statement from Michigan Medicine. It says that Bobby Reyes has been taken off the ventilator. pic.twitter.com/w2k8K73eVU
— Kim Russell WXYZ (@kimrussell7) October 15, 2019
Schindler believes the Reyes case is “representative of a problem within the US healthcare system rushing to end the life of patients within the confines of hospital corporations, which have a vested financial interest in discontinuing life, ” he stated in a press release Monday.
“Families enduring the emotional trauma of a life-or-death crisis of a loved one should be able to trust that they will be listened to by doctors and reasonably accommodated when asking for more time before making an irrevocable decision.”
Supporters packed the courtroom, leaving standing room only. Public displays of support included a vigil at Bobby’s school. A Facebook group “Save Bobby” has passed 10,000 members.
After the hearing, Patty Hansen of Manchester organized picketing outside Mott Children’s Hospital. She reported people stopping and honking in support. Some walking past stopped to pray.
“The law needs to change! None of us knew what the laws were in Michigan until Bobby’s family had to fight for their son’s right to life,” she said in a message to The Michigan Star.
“It could be any one of our children,” she said.
Jennifer Thie of Pinckney attended the hearing hoping the family would gain more time. If they could persuade the hospital to perform a tracheostomy, that would allow another facility to accept Bobby for prolonged ventilator support.
“The American Association of Neurologists have stated that no discussion of such a diagnosis should be raised for 28 days post injury to allow the brain to heal,” she said, referring to the hospital’s diagnosis of brain death.
“My heart hurts, not just for Bobby and this family but for the state of our society. How can this happen without parental consent?”
She said that a group is forming to pursue changes to MI law, perhaps modeled after Simon’s Law.
“Of course, we want to call it Bobby’s Law.”
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Abigail Nobel is a reporter for The Michigan Star.
Photo “Bobby Reyes” by Save Bobby.