Fight over teen's life support moves to probate court

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland circuit judge told attorneys Thursday that the county's probate court should decide whether to let Beaumont Health disconnect the life support of a Lathrup Village teen who has been in a coma since Oct. 17.

Judge Hala Jarbou made the decision in the case of Titus Cromer Jr., 16, who has been in William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak for the past three weeks with an undisclosed head injury.

Titus Cromer has been at the hospital since Oct. 17

Cromer’s family had gone to court last month seeking to keep him on a ventilator after hospital officials argued he had no brain activity andthat  life support should be disconnected. The family’s attorney, James Rasor, obtained a temporary restraining order against the hospital.

Jarbou had ordered Beaumont to continue to care for Cromer and scheduled a hearing for next week regarding the future of life support. But following a conference call with two Beaumont attorneys and Rasor, Jarbou decided Thursday to cancel the hearing and move the case to a different court, Rasor said.

“It’s off now and she indicated this matter should be handled in probate court, so we will be filing there,” said Rasor, who wants Beaumont to allow another doctor to visit Cromer and also procedures needed to move him to a long-term care facility.

“It’s their (Beaumont’s) opinion that he is dead — irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain,” said Rasor. “We believe he is not and even showing signs of improvement. But it is a lengthy process for a brain to heal, maybe up to two years.”

Cromer, a junior and wrestler at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, remains at Beaumont Hospital for now, Rasor said.

“The bizarre thing is once a determination like this (brain dead) is made there are no appellate rights,” Rasor said. “He’s dead. If he woke up today, he would still be legally dead today, and forever. It's outrageous.”

The hospital has declined to discuss Cromer’s medical condition, citing privacy laws. “We are committed to supporting the family in a compassionate, ethical and legally appropriate way,” Beaumont spokesman Mark Geary said.

The hospital's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Rasor said the hospital’s position is that it would be ethically wrong to perform any medical procedures on a person who has been determined as dead.

“But he is regulating his own heart rate, and blood pressure and intake of oxygen for brief periods,” Rasor said. “He produces urine and feces. He has even responded to stimuli — a relative said she was holding his hand and he moved his finger.

“What’s the rush?”

Rasor’s rehabilitation expert, Dr. Richard Bonfiglio of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, has reviewed Cromer’s medical records and opined he is “showing signs of brain activity.”

“He has indicated recovery can take considerable time,” said Rasor. “There is no certainty but if you are a parent even if it’s a million-to-one shot, you are going to fight for that opportunity.”

Rasor said he has “two brave doctors” willing to perform the routine procedures — inserting a tracheostomy tube and feeding tube — needed to move the teenager out of the hospital.

“But Beaumont will not allow them in to do them and refuse to do them themselves,” said Rasor. “I think they are worried that his care will continue outside of their facility. They have made a mistake and are digging in, instead of correcting it.”

Rasor said ongoing care expenses are expected to be considerable and the family has established a GoFundMe account that has raised more than $20,000.

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