Parents' Hospital Lawsuit Says Teen Was 'Killed' For Organs

'It's Been a Nightmare,' Says Father

Several calls by to the Jacobs family were not answered, but in an interview with media in July 2007, family members said they "wanted answers."

"It's been a nightmare," Mike Jacobs told

He said doctors told him Gregory Jacobs' head was "full of strokes. ... Half his head was stroked. ... The other part was stroked. They showed us on the [CT] scan. There was no hope."

"From the very first day that I was there and walked into the pre-op room, I was told organ donation makes death easier," he said.

The suit alleges Mike Jacobs was pressured into signing a do-not-resuscitate order and authorizing the organ transplant. The teen's heart, liver and kidney were donated.

As soon as the order was signed, the hospital began preparing Gregory Jacobs for organ donation, the lawsuit charges.

"In fact, [brain death] was never recorded and our experts say he did not meet any criteria for brain death," Boyle told

Gregory Jacobs' Parents Not Present at Death

The parents were "in shock" and not present at their son's death. The mother "seems to have been taken out of it [decision making] completely," said Boyle. "She wanted to be present but was told she couldn't be."

"They cut my son at ten to 6, 29 minutes before they pronounced him dead," Teresa Jacobs told last year.

The Jacobses, whom their lawyer described as an "intact, close-knit working class family," have another son who is a junior in high school.

The lawsuit was filed two years -- almost to the day -- after the accident, when the statute of limitations on such a civil lawsuit closes.

"It took them a while to find an attorney, and it us took us a while to obtain medical records for independent review and educate ourselves on what was going on," Boyle said.

The Jacobses' case illustrates the painful decision to transplant organs from dying patients, one that is fraught with ethical questions.

"You don't treat someone as a donor before they are dead," said Dr. Arthur Caplan, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at University of Pennsylvania, who is not involved in the Jacobs case. "That's a big no-no."

Dead Donor Rule

"It's the dead donor rule to keep the public trust in place so people are not killed for parts," he told

But, he added that giving a patient a dire prognosis and signing a do-not-resuscitate order does not give the automatic green light for organ donation -- sometimes, patients and doctors don't communicate effectively.

"There can be a lot of tension managing the end of life," Caplan told "It's a gray area to manage the desire of the donor, and the family wanting to do everything they can think of in a hopeless situation."

"It's also murky. Families don't always hear what doctors are saying and doctors aren't always clear because they don't want to take away any hope," he said.

Doctors need to be "franker and blunter," he said. "Be kind, but don't sugarcoat things, otherwise people don't hear what is being said."

Families should appoint a lead decision-maker who can talk directly with the medical team.

"Groups can be very confusing and often people hear different things," he said.

Better medical protocols and training are also necessary to ensure that "patients are first, not the organs," he said.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...