Bobby Reyes dies after UM takes him off life support

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — University of Michigan doctors disconnected a teen's life support against the wishes of his parents Tuesday four hours after a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge dismissed the family's request for an emergency injunction to keep him alive. 

Sara Jones and Jose Reyes, the parents of 14-year-old Bobby Reyes of Monroe, were emotional after Judge David Swartz decided he didn't have the power to issue another temporary restraining order against C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. The decision paved the way for the UM hospital to reconfirm its doctors' finding that Bobby was brain dead.

The University of Michigan children's hospital removed Bobby Reyes, 14, of Monroe County died Tuesday (Oct. 15, 2019) after the University of Michigan children's hospital removed his life support. The hospital did so after a Washtenaw County judge ruled he did not have the authority to issue a restraining order preventing C.S. Mott Children's Hospital from getting a second medical opinion and declaring Bobby Reyes brain dead.

Health system doctors on Tuesday provided a second brain death examination and pronounced Bobby dead, according to a press release issued shortly before 3 p.m. by Michigan Medicine, the UM health system.

"Mechanical ventilation was discontinued after the family gathered in the patient’s room," according to the press release. 

Bobby's older sister, Erica Reyes, said shortly after Bobby died that she was "shocked and appalled by this whole situation."

"I think that they rushed it, and I think that they should have waited for the family to find a hospital to take Bobby," said Reyes, 29, of Austin Texas, who was distraught that she couldn't be with her brother when he died. 

"I asked the hospital please to wait for me, and they said, 'No.'" 

She said she wasn't speaking on behalf of the parents, who planned to release their own statement.  

The university had planned to disconnect the teen on Friday, but Swartz ordered the health system to keep him alive through the Tuesday morning hearing.

Bobby suffered his first-ever asthma attack while playing video games at home on Sept. 22. His mother immediately sought help from a fire station across the street from their home, but paramedics were unable to revive him. Bobby was airlifted to the Ann Arbor children's hospital. 

UM medical officials said caregivers at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital attempted to transfer Reyes and contacted more than 20 facilities, all of which declined to accept him.

"Our health care team at Michigan Medicine extends our deepest condolences to the family of Bobby Reyes in this heartbreaking situation," said the University of Michigan, which operates the hospital, in its Tuesday statement.

But family attorney Bill Amadeo said the family obtained second opinions from three physicians who believed there was hope that Bobby could recover. Negotiations were underway with another health system they felt was likely to admit their son, he said.

A second medical opinion by a University of Toledo clinical professor of pediatrics obtained by the Reyes family and reviewed Monday by The Detroit News argued the boy was not brain dead and could perhaps recover consciousness.

"This is where they try to call his time of death," a tearful Sara Jones said following the hearing for her son on Tuesday."We don't agree with it because we know he's not brain dead."

Sara Jones of Ash Township stands with her attorney William Amadeo as they answer questions about her son's medical condition from the media after the case was dismissed by Judge David Schwartz.

By Michigan law, an individual who has sustained an irreversible cessation of the brain is considered dead, officials said. The university hospital said "continuing medical interventions was inappropriate" because they violated "the professional integrity of Michigan Medicine's clinicians." 

Amadeo said Tuesday night that he had raced to file an emergency restraining order with the state Court of Claims, which he prepared prior to Tuesday's hearing in Ann Arbor, to keep Bobby alive. But the Michigan Court of Claims in Lansing would not accept the filing by fax or email. The court also wouldn't accept filing fees by credit card or electronic payment.

Amadeo said he hand-delivered the appeal at 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, and it was on the desk of a Court of Claims judge by 2:50 p.m., "but by then, it was too late." 

"They're devastated," he said of Bobby's parents. "The family needs some time to mourn. They’re not capable of communicating. They’re just heartbroken."

After Bobby's asthma attack and hospitalization, C.S. Mott doctors did a brain death exam on Sept. 24 that showed the boy had no detectable brain or brain stem function. Further testing detected no electrical activity and no blood flow to Bobby's brain, according to the UM hospital exam.

In an opinion obtained by the Reyes family, Dr. Paul R. Byrne of the University of Toledo College of Medicine said his review of Bobby's medical records found that the teen's temperature was normal, his "lungs, respiration and beating heart are functioning," and he was receiving medications that could suppress brain activity.

The judge's Tuesday decision allowed C.S. Mott Children's Hospital to provide its own second opinion on the boy's condition, a legal requirement to disconnect life support. 

In a petition filed Friday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, the university argued that Swartz did not have jurisdiction to issue a restraining order Friday that blocked the hospital from issuing the second opinion on Bobby's condition.

Judge David Schwartz

Amadeo admitted Tuesday that lawyers previously representing the family should have filed in the Michigan Court of Claims and asked for a 48-hour injunction to process the appeal.

"This is a matter of life and death," he told Swartz. "I have second opinions that Bobby does have functions. He is not brain dead, according to several physicians. 

"I do not think a procedural error should be the reason this young man does not have a chance at life. ... I'm doing everything in my power to give this child a chance. ... We need to file in the Court of Claims; please give us 48 hours to do so."

J. Michael  Huget, attorney for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

Attorney Michael Huget, representing the UM hospital, said Swartz had no jurisdiction to continue with a stay of action.

"I think this court needs to proceed as it should and allow the doctors at the University of Michigan to engage in the medically appropriate treatment that they want to engage in," Huget said.

Swartz agreed and dismissed the restraining order, noting both parties agreed his court lacks jurisdiction.

Supporters of 14-year-old Bobby Reyes pray silently outside C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019.

"This court, as all courts of this state, is required to follow the law," he said. "In this case, it is crystal clear, and conceded by plaintiff, that this court lacks jurisdiction.

"... I have no authority to do anything."

The case attracted about a dozen supporters of the Reyes family who held signs Tuesday outside of C.S. Mott hospital saying “Save Bobby.” They said they were not part of any organized group, but each decided to come to the hospital after reading the family’s posts on Facebook.  

“I think we should have a Bobby’s Law so that parents have a choice,” said Chrissy Curry of Macomb Township, referring to the way Michigan handles end-of-life decisions for children.

Robin Scott of Ann Arbor added: “If it were one of my kids, I would want every person I could get ahold of to be here.”

Staff writer Sarah Rahal contributed.