14-year-old boy on life support dies after examination reveals no brain activity

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 - 4:37pm

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File Photo/Daily

Late Tuesday morning, Bobby Reyes, a 14-year-old boy who was pronounced brain dead after suffering an asthma attack on Sept. 21, died when mechanical ventilation was discontinued in his room at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. 

After Reyes went into cardiac arrest on Sept. 21, doctors at Michigan Medicine determined Reyes had no brain activity and would be removed from life support on Sept. 27. In response, Reyes’ family reached out to an attorney to request a court order that extended Reyes’ time on life support. 

Reyes’ death occurred hours after Circuit Court Judge David S. Swartz dismissed the lawsuit at a hearing. He argued the Washtenaw County’s 22nd Circuit Court lacks any jurisdiction over the case, and only the Michigan Court of Claims could handle the decision. According to Swartz, any action other than dismissing the case was void. Swartz’s decision reversed the Washtenaw County’s 22nd Circuit Court Sept. 30 order, which delayed taking Reyes off life support indefinitely and allowed the family to seek out other treatment facilities. 

At the hearing on Tuesday morning, Swartz said he sympathized with Reyes’ family but only had the power to dismiss the case.

“I have no authority to do anything,” Swartz said. “My hands are tied.”

Mary Masson, director of public relations for Michigan Medicine, wrote in a statement to The Daily that a brain examination Tuesday revealed Reyes had no detectable brain activity and could no longer legally remain on life support. 

“Further testing— including an electrical encephalogram (EEG) and a cerebral blood flow study — detected no electrical activity and no blood flow to Bobby’s brain,” Masson wrote. “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 was inappropriate after Bobby had suffered brain death and violates the professional integrity of Michigan Medicine’s clinicians.”

After the Sept. 30 ruling, Reyes’ family and his team at Michigan Medicine contacted nearly 20 hospitals in order to arrange a transfer for Reyes to receive alternate care. According to Masson, all facilities declined to take Reyes as their patient. 

After the hearing, William Amadeo, the attorney representing Reyes’ family, said Michigan Medicine’s reputation as a top hospital has made other facilities around the country reluctant to question the University’s decisions. 

“Whenever any qualified (facility) makes a ruling, it’s hard to find a facility to counter that,” Amadeo said.

Amadeo noted there were three physicians at hospitals around the country who believed Reyes had a chance of survival if allowed to remain on life support. He said the case should have been filed in the Court of Claims, rather than the circuit court, and requested a 48-hour stay from Swartz in order to file in the Court of Claims. 

After the hearing, Amadeo told The Daily the attorneys were working to file an emergency appeal in the Court of Claims in Lansing. When the Court of Claims declined Amadeo’s request to file the claim electronically, the attorneys drove to Lansing to file it in person. 

“We were devastated by the results,” Amadeo said. 

When contacted by the Daily, Reyes’ mother Sarah Jones did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.