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Family of brain-dead patient says he's been removed from life support

Ruben Vati organ donation protest
Posted at 4:29 AM, Sep 26, 2019

PHOENIX — UPDATE: A judge ruled on Thursday that the family could receive a second opinion on if Vati had any brain activity or not, but that it would have to be someone within the HonorHealth organization, instead of an outside neurologist as the family had requested.

Later Thursday, the family told ABC15 Vati had been removed from life support and was officially dead.

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"We love him very much we don't want to lose him. We love him, more than anything," says a tearful Stela Vati about her 26-year-old son Ruben Vati in front of Phoenix's HonorHealth Hospital at 3rd Street and Dunlap Avenue.

At her husband Gheorghe Vati's side, Stela shares the story of how it all began back on September 11, the day Ruben ended up being rushed to the hospital after a drug overdose.

According to court documents, Ruben was considered deceased on September 15. A death certificate was even issued, but the Vati family believes otherwise.

"They said from the neck up he's dead, but he don't look dead to me," adds Stela.

The Vati family says Ruben is a registered organ donor and due to his status, feel there is pressure to have him taken off ventilators and machines to keep him alive. According to court documents filed over the past week, Ruben has no brain function, determining him to be dead and not in a coma state, as stated by the family.

"I talk to him, he gets tears in his eyes on his face when I talk to him and I know he's in there. He's in there and he's alive," says Daniel Vati, Ruben's older brother.

The Vati family believes that if Ruben were to be given more time, he'd "come out" of the vegetative state he is currently in and make progress.

"Give him a chance, just like anybody else, that is all we are saying," said Stela.

The Donor Network of Arizona would not comment directly on this case but documents obtained by ABC15 show the procurement agency is counter-suing the Vatis because time is of the essence and five patients are currently waiting for Ruben's donated organs as life-saving measures.

The Vatis have asked for a court order that would allow for a board certified neurologist to come into the hospital and assess Ruben as a second opinion. A judge has approved that court order and according to a statement from the hospital, they are waiting for that expert to come to HonorHealth to assess Ruben.

"We fight them; we don't want them to take his organs no matter what," said Stela.

Before this situation, Ruben had registered twice with the Donor Network of Arizona as a donor. Under state law, that anatomical gift selection must be fulfilled by the procurement agency and due to the delay for re-evaluation, the organs life-span is dwindling.

According to the law, Ruben's election to be a donor is all the procurement agency needs in order to continue with the organ donation.

Through a medical power of attorney, Stela and her son Daniel have filed an injunction, or court order, basically halting the hospital and the donor network from going through with recovering Ruben's organs to be transplanted to five different patients waiting for a liver, lung, kidney and heart transplant, according to court documents.

In a statement, HonorHealth said:

“HonorHealth is required to abide by the court order. The court order states that HonorHealth is to allow a board certified Neurologist to perform an exam on the patient. HonorHealth granted emergency temporary privileges to a board certified Neurologist identified by the family. As of now, that Neurologist has not come to the facility to examine the patient. The family had instead sent an independent EEG technician to the facility. However, under court order HonorHealth is not permitted to allow a technician access to a hospital facility without the supervision of the authorized Neurologist and, in this case, without a physician order. HonorHealth is working with the family’s attorney to comply with the Court’s order and the applicable standards of care.”

This is a developing story. Stay with ABC15 and for the latest information.