UM asks higher court to intervene in life support controversy

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan has asked the state Court of Claims to intervene in the case of 14-year-old Bobby Reyes, whose parents are waging a court battle to keep him on life support against the advice of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital doctors who have declared the boy brain dead. 

A second medical opinion obtained by the Reyes family and viewed by The Detroit News maintains that the boy is not brain dead and could perhaps recover consciousness. 

In a petition filed Friday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, the university argued that Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge David Schwartz did not have jurisdiction to issue a restraining order Friday that is blocking the hospital from discontinuing the boy's life support. The hospital's doctors have diagnosed the teen as brain dead.

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, Ann Arbor

The parents are "very religious," said family attorney Bill Amadeo of Ann Arbor, and want to give Bobby every possible opportunity to stay alive.

"We have at least one hospital, possibly two or more, that will take Bobby if he had a tracheostomy tube and a feeding tube," Amadeo said Monday, adding that the university did not respond to emails he sent Monday about the other hospitals' offers.

Dr. Paul R. Byrne, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Toledo College of Medicine who reviewed the boy's charts, concluded that Bobby is not brain dead.

In his opinion, Byrne noted that the teen's temperature is normal, his "lungs, respiration and beating heart are functioning," and he's receiving medications that can suppress brain activity. 

"With proper medical treatment Bobby Reyes is likely to continue to live and may find limited to full recovery of brain function and may possibly regain consciousness," the doctor concluded.

In its filing, the hospital's lawyer said C.S. Mott Children's Hospital has approached other hospitals about taking Reyes without success.  

Schwartz's order barred the university from acting on Bobby's case at least until Tuesday, when a hearing was scheduled in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. Courts were closed on Monday in observance of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day. 

In its petition, UM argued that the state Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over claims against the state, of which the university is a part. Even if Schwartz did have jurisdiction, the university argued, the standards required to issue a restraining order in Bobby's case have not been met. 

Bobby Reyes has been at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital since Sept. 22, according to the university's petition. 

The teenager was watching video games at his Monroe area home when he suffered his first-ever asthma attack. His mother quickly sought help from a fire station across the street from their home, but paramedics were unable to revive Bobby and he was airlifted to the Ann Arbor children's hospital, which said tests found he was brain dead. 

The hospital wants to provide a second opinion on whether Bobby is brain dead, a necessary step before life support can be disconnected but which is prohibited by the emergency order. The boy's parents, Sara Jones and Jose Reyes, are seeking an outside opinion and hope to find another facility to care for their son. 

"Our health care team at Michigan Medicine empathizes with the family of Bobby Reyes, who are facing an extremely difficult and heartbreaking situation," said Mary Masson, director of public relations for Michigan Medicine, the UM health care system.

"Tragically, testing has showed that Bobby has no detectable brain activity. An initial brain death examination on Sept. 24 showed Bobby had no detectable brain or brain stem function. 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."

The health system has not proceeded with the second examination because of the court order, Masson said.

Twitter: @kbouffardDN