After doctors at Michigan Medicine took 14-year-old Bobby Reyes off life support on Oct. 15, Reyes’ mother Sarah Jones is working to pass legislation cementing the rights of parents in similar situations.
Jones is currently working with state Rep. Joseph Bellino, R-District 17, on a bill that could require doctors to gain parental consent before removing minors from life-sustaining treatment. It would also likely guarantee families the right to find other facilities and request a transfer, as well as to file a stay in court. They bill, which they are calling “Bobby’s Law”, is modeled after similar legislation in Arizona, known as “Simon’s Law.”
Reyes suffered an asthma attack on Sept. 21 while driving with his mother and went into cardiac arrest before arriving at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. After being airlifted to the hospital, doctors declared Reyes brain dead.
William Amadeo, the family’s attorney, filed an immediate request for a 48-hour stay before doctors could revoke life-sustaining treatment. During this time the family was working to find another hospital willing to facilitate a transfer of Reyes.
Washtenaw County’s 22nd Circuit Court initially ordered Michigan Medicine to delay taking Reyes off life support. Weeks later, Trial Court Judge David Swartz ultimately allowed doctors to conduct a second test confirming their status and to remove life support, citing a lack of jurisdiction over the case.
Michigan Medicine Spokesperson Mary Masson explained the decision to remove Reyes from life support.
“Our health care team at Michigan Medicine continues to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Bobby Reyes in this heartbreaking situation,” Masson told The Daily in an email. “By law in Michigan, an individual is dead who has sustained either irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or irreversible cessation of all function of the entire brain, including the brain stem. Continuing medical interventions is inappropriate in these cases from both a clinical and ethical standpoint.”
Grant Meade manages policy development for Bellino and said the firm does not expect the bill to face much opposition if it reaches the floor. He also explained how the law currently stands and why Reyes’ parents were not able to prevent him from being taken off life support.
“The law states that a person is dead when they have sustained irreversible cessation of all brain function,” Meade said. “While I don’t believe law states parental consent is necessary, it also doesn’t say that it (parental consent) is required. From my understanding of the case, it is (not Michigan Medicine’s) ethical policy to provide treatment to a patient … that is for the benefit of a third party.”
In an interview with The Daily, Jones expressed frustration with the process following her son’s cardiac arrest and why she wants to keep pushing.
“Why did I even have to fight so hard to keep my son alive?” Jones said. “Doctors are there to help you, to provide help. They’re supposed to exalt all efforts to save life, not exalt all efforts to end life.”