The parents of an 18-year-old who suffered a brain injury in a 2007 snowboarding accident say his doctors "intentionally killed" him to harvest his organs.
In the lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania, Michael and Teresa Jacobs claim that doctors "hastened" their son Gregory Jacobs' death by delaying treatment and ultimately pulling his breathing tube, causing him to suffocate.
The couple said their son had not been formally declared brain dead when surgeons began the transplant procedure. They are seeking $5 million in damages.
"But for the intentional trauma or asphyxiation of Gregory Jacobs, he would have lived, or, at the very least, his life would have been prolonged," the lawsuit said.
The Bellevue, Ohio, family claim that if their son had been properly treated, he would have had a "significant chance of substantial recovery."
The parents have charged doctors at Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa., and a representative of the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) in Pittsburgh.
In prepared statements, both Hamot Medical Center and the organ center expressed condolences to the Jacobs family.
Hamot maintained that the treatment administered was "timely, appropriate and well-documented."
"Proper consent was received in order for his organs to be donated and the protocols that were followed were consistent with all established donation procedures," it read. "Any claims otherwise are completely baseless. While we have yet to receive formal notification of a lawsuit having been filed, we will vigorously defend against any accusations of wrongdoing."
The organ center also said charges against them were "baseless and untrue."
"As in all donation cases, CORE followed all regulated medical protocols in the case," its statement read.
Gregory Jacobs suffered a "closed head injury" after a fall while on a high school-sponsored skiing trip to Peek 'n Peak Ski Resort in Findley Lake, N.Y., March 8, 2007. He died five days later after being air-lifted to Hamot.
"Essentially, the family was told that Greg was brain dead and he would not recover and, therefore, they signed a document that agreed to an organ transplant," said the Jacobs' lawyer Dennis Boyle. "Greg was not, in fact, brain dead."
According to the plaintiffs, brain death was recorded the next day, "retroactively" as life support was being withdrawn in preparation for organ removal.
In an interview with media in 2007, hospital officials acknowledged that the recorded time of death was a mistake.
"We are absolutely certain that no retrieval of any organs took place until he was pronounced dead," Dr. James Pepicello said told Erie.com. "We are aware of a discrepancy in the operative record from Hamot. It is an error in documentation."
The coroner's office initially referred the death to the Erie County district attorney's office, according to Boyle, but it declined to prosecute after hospital officials "corrected" the time of death.
The suit also alleges that the Center for Organ Recovery and Education benefited by obtaining Gregory Jacobs' organs "for transfer and sale to other individuals, who then paid money, a portion of which went to CORE, for the wrongful procurement of the organs."