On September 11, 26-year-old Ruben Vati was admitted to HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona for what the hospital says is a drug overdose. Ruben was partially conscious when he was transferred by ambulance to HonorHealth’s emergency room. Several days later, the hospital declared Ruben “brain dead” and immediately the Donor Network of America swooped in to claim Ruben’s organs.
Ruben’s parents are still unclear about what happened between the time their son was placed in the ambulance and when he was declared brain dead. They have asked for a second examination by an independent neurologist, as well as an EEG. HonorHealth refused both requests. Instead, the hospital removed Ruben’s feeding tube.
On September 20, the Vati’s obtained a court order requiring HonorHealth to restore Ruben’s nutrition and facilitate a transfer to another hospital. The hospital has not complied with the court order. Now the Donor Network of America has sued the Vati’s to take possession of Ruben’s organs.
Although Ruben checked the organ donor box on his most recent driver’s license renewal, he later expressed remorse over this decision. The Vati’s are Christians who believe that death does not occur until cardiorespiratory functions cease.
“Brain death” is a legal construct that allows hospitals to declare patients “dead” after a severe brain injury in order to remove their organs for transplant. Arizona law does not define brain death and does not provide any guidance for brain death examinations, except that they be performed according to “accepted medical standards,” which typically are the 2010 Guidelines issued by the American Academy of Neurology. Life Legal is aware of several cases where brain death exams were done according to these guidelines, yet the patient recovered consciousness or was not actually brain dead to begin with.
The Vati’s say that Ruben has shown some indications of responsiveness, including tearing up (crying) at the sound of his father’s voice, that are inconsistent with brain death. They are concerned that the hospital and donor company are moving too quickly to remove Ruben’s life support, as his brain injury occurred less than two weeks ago.
“The Vati’s have made it clear that they do not want Ruben’s organs removed at this time, as they want to give their son every opportunity to recover,” said Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “It is unconscionable for the Donor Network of America to violate the family’s wishes and treat Ruben as chattel.”