This week, a Michigan family mourns the premature death of a 14-year-old boy, Bobby Reyes, who loved animals and children and dreamed of one day becoming a missionary. According to WXYZ Detroit, Reyes suffered a severe asthma attack in September and was airlifted from Ash Township, Michigan, to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital where he was placed on life support.
On September 24, the hospital conducted a test and deemed Reyes “brain dead,” a notoriously misunderstood term. Reyes’ family fought in court to delay the hospital from conducting a second test and ending life support. His mother, Sarah Jones, and father, Jose Reyes, sought a court order to delay the hospital from acting to end Bobby’s life while they sought treatment for their son at another facility.
In a Facebook post during the ordeal, the family wrote, “Don’t let them take our son before they gave him a chance. All we’re asking for is a little bit of time.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, the family’s case was dismissed in a county circuit court because the University of Michigan is part of the state, requiring the lawsuit to be filed in the Court of Claims. Responding to the dismissal, the family’s attorney, William Amadeo, said, “I do not think a procedural error should be the reason this young man does not have a chance at life.”
Amadeo, who was preparing an immediate appeal to the Court of Claims, added, “I negotiated in good faith and while there was an error by the initial attorney, I’m doing everything in my power to give this child a chance…”
During the almost full month that Reyes was at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, his family attracted national attention and worked tirelessly to secure adequate care for Bobby at another facility. Earlier this month, a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, offered to treat Reyes. Sarah Jones told news outlets, “We needed a miracle, and we got one.”
However, the next day the Phoenix hospital reversed the decision, refusing to accept Reyes and leaving his family to fight desperately for more time. Those efforts failed last Tuesday when the case was dismissed.
In an emotional court appearance before the hospital ended her son’s life, Sarah Jones said, “We’re not agreeing to it because we know he’s not brain dead.”
Indeed, the family brought in doctors who disagreed with the hospital’s assessment and thought Reyes might improve if given more time, as these types of brain injuries are not well understood.
One such doctor was Richard P. Bonfiglio. When the Detroit Free Press asked Bonfiglio if he thought there was hope for Reyes, he answered, “Absolutely, yes.”
He explained, “The problem is the whole determination of brain death is not a precise science at this point, so when you’re dealing with this kind of situation, I would rather err on the side of giving him a chance than on terminating things.”
Bobby Schindler of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network said in a statement, “Bobby suffered a premature and needless death at the hands of the University of Michigan, C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who refused to simply permit his parents more time to treat their son’s brain injury with the proper medical care that he needed.”
During the struggle to defend Reyes’ life, the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network advocated for the family. In a press release during the legal battle, Schindler stated, “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.”
He continued, “Bobby’s parents, not wanting to make the decision to end their son’s life so quickly, are simply asking for more time, and doctors are duty-bound to provide all potentially efficacious treatments that might help with the patient’s recovery.”
Sadly, the death of Bobby Reyes is not an isolated incident of a hospital’s abuse of power and refusal to respect the wishes of a patient’s loved ones. In fact, under current Texas law, hospitals in our state our empowered to take action against the written or stated wishes of patients and their families, even in matters of life and death. Texas Right to Life has helped hundreds of vulnerable patients like Bobby Reyes in our state, which should be soundly Pro-Life. Texas is long overdue in passing life-saving protections to end the killing.