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Did Hospital Kill Teen for His Organs?

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An Ohio couple whose teenage son was injured in a snowboarding accident has filed suit, claiming doctors harvested his organs before he was declared dead.

Gregory Jacobs

18-year-old Gregory Jacobs, of Bellevue, Ohio, suffered a "closed head injury" two years ago while snowboarding on a high school-sponsored ski trip.

He was airlifted to Hamot Medical Center in northwestern Pennsylvania, where he died.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, claims doctors and a representative of The Center Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), caused Gregory's death by giving the teen drugs and removing his breathing tube.

Parent Michael and Teresa Jacobs also claim their son had not yet been formally declared brain dead when surgeons began the transplant procedure.

Appearing on the CBS Early Show Monday, Jacobs mother said "The records indicated that they started harvesting procedures including the incision when he was alive. And he was not even pronounced dead until 29 minutes later. That's pretty shocking."

Their attorney said, "Our experts are telling us that, had his organs not been taken, he may very well have survived and recovered from this accident," adding, "Even the hospital's own records show that he had brain stem function minutes before he was taken to the operating room to have his organs removed. He never met the criteria for brain dead. And, in fact, he never was dead or brain dead."

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In response to the suit, the hospital says, "The care that Gregory received throughout his course of treatment at Hamot following the severe head trauma he sustained 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. Any claims otherwise are completely baseless. ... We will vigorously defend against any accusations of wrongdoing." For their part, CORE says, "As in all donation cases, CORE followed all regulated medical protocols in the case of the Gregory Jacobs. The allegations against CORE are baseless and untrue."

So how did this happen? Michael Jacobs says "They tell you that your son's brain dead and that his organs can be used for children. It's a process that they use to convince you. When you feel there's no hope or you're told that there's just absolutely no hope and that he will be dead in so many hours, you know, I decided to sign the paper for organ donation."

Asked what message he has for other parents who may find themselves in that situation, Michael said simply, "Don't do it. No one -- I found this out after OKing that -- no human on Earth has the right to tell someone else they can take somebody's organs. No piece of paper should ever be allowed. If that person isn't a donor, isn't signed up to be a donor, there should be no question about it."

According to their website, CORE says as a donor "everything to try to save your life" and that they are "not notified until all life-saving efforts have failed."

Does this make you rethink organ donation? Or is the grief-ridden family mistaken?




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48 comments so far | Post a comment now
Never sing on the dotted line when life is at stake... March 17, 2009, 2:37 PM

I heard about organ harvesting in the sixth grade. Some kids at school were talking about organ donation in class and how they either were or weren’t going to do it when they got older. I went to church back in those days and I was convinced that it was the right thing to do; save someone else’s life, maybe a a few more. Yeah, that’s a sure way to get into heaven. Then the substitute teacher that day butted in and said that if the hospital sees that you’re an organ donor, they don’t try a s hard to save your life. My naive littel sixth grade mind was forever changed, I’m almost 30 now and have not ever changed my mind again about not being an organ donor. Whether it can be proven that organ harvesting exists or not, I don’t care. Organ donor - NO! PS: the sustitute got in trouble for talking about such a “morbid” topic with us students because one of the kids went home and told thier parents.

Jana March 17, 2009, 2:43 PM

This is sad case and if at fault, the hospital and doctors should face serious legal charges. My heart breaks for the family who lost their son. However, the fact remains that organ donation saves countless lives. What the world needs is MORE organ donors, not less. Don’t let the one bad story out of a million good ones change your mind.

Anonymous March 17, 2009, 3:13 PM

I agree this is a horrible case and if the hospital did do this action should be taken. I also agree that donation is so important. I know how hard it is to sign on the dotted line. My husband and mother-in-law just had to do this for my father-in-law. It was a hard decision but we know it was the right one. In his case the hospital did ALL they could do (no brain function) and then the organ donation team came to speak with the family (even though we had already decided what to do)we then left the hospital as the process was scheduled to take 24-48 hours and the hospital called us right before the surgery to say final good-byes. He was not pronounced until after this time. I hope this family finds peace but I also hope people realize how important organ donation is.

Gail Cooke March 17, 2009, 4:37 PM

I wouldn’t donate my organs unless it was specifically for a family member. In the medical chain…someone is getting paid for organs. It may not be the person receiving it, but there are people paid. Unless my family recieves compensation…no way!

The Mother March 17, 2009, 10:21 PM

It’s news like this that makes organs hard to procure, keeps people from signing their donation cards.

The media are frequently responsible for hyping these misunderstandings out of proportion. We may never know exactly what happened, but after many years of working in hospitals (including with transplant teams) I can tell you that NO ONE harvests organs lightly, nor declares a young person to be brain dead lightly.

In addition, the neurologists on the original case are not even involved with the transplant team. Transplants would not have been notified until the case was already decided to be terminal.

Hospitals have very strict regulations and procedures about how people are to be declared brain dead. It usually involves second opinions and often oversight from the ethics committee.

“Brain stem” function is irrelevant. One cannot survive with only brain stem function. And the time of “actual” death is irrelevant. The patient is frequently kept on life support after brain death, to prevent damage to organs.

This family suffered a terrible tragedy. But let’s not compound that with speculative, sensationalist reporting, making it sound like hospitals are preying on young boys and pouncing on their organs. The pool of donors is small enough as it is. These same folks who will not sign their cards now will be wringing their hands when their son needs a heart. Or a kidney.

nelz09 March 18, 2009, 1:02 AM

i KNOW ONE THING *NONE* OF MY KIDS WILL EVER BE AN ORGAN DONOR UNTIL THEY ARE 18 TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICE. I MYSELF AM CURRENTLY A DONOR AND I ALSO AM GOING TO CHANGE MY STATUS SOON AS I CAN MYSELF. THAT IS SICK, HOW MUCH MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED THAT SOMEONE WANTED THEM ORGANS AT ANY COST AND BLESS THIS FAMILY’S AND THIS BOY.
PEACE, THANKS.

Angela March 18, 2009, 3:19 PM

The hospital could sue if this was false and I do believe this happens.Some doctors are greedy and I believe they would do something like this. If you think about it the doctors get paid for the surgery,the patient gets the organ,the hospital charges for the Operating room supplies ,patients room and every med,bandage,towel, sheet and anything else they can make money off of.The donor is the only one that gets nothing.This is the world we live in. Nobody can be trusted,goverment ,hospitals,doctor’s.

Chrissy March 19, 2009, 12:21 AM

The father admits to signing the papers. His son was declared brain dead. So the hospital took the son off of life support - hence the removal of the feed tube.
He would not have been pronounced “dead” by coroner’s standards until he stopped breathing.
The only real question is when did the father sign the papers authorizing the organ harvest? Was it before or after the harvest began because if it was before - the fahter basically agreed for the doctors to procede.

shaun March 19, 2009, 10:30 AM

To the person who posted before me whose 6th grade teacher’s opinion changed theirs…….
Why would a hospital not try as hard to save a life of somebody who was a donor?
What does the hospital/doctors/nurses gain from it?
What makes the person waiting for the organ’s life more valuable than the person who is registered as a donor?
That thought is just silly and uneducated.
I have no problem with you not wanting to be a donor but there has to be a better reason than that. Tell me your religion dosent accept it. Tell me you just want your organs to rot in the ground instead of helping somebody live. But dont base it on that misconception.
Best of luck and I pray that you or someone you love never needs a transplant becasue if everyone held your view you and your loved one would die.

Kelly March 21, 2009, 4:35 PM

For people to say they will never be donors or will change their donor stauts over this story is horrible. If the story is true, the hospital and all medical personal involved need to be in trouble.
But how will making organ donation more scarce than it already is better? Do you REALLY need those organs once you are dead? Does your family REALLY need compensation for something they wouldn’t have gotten money for in the first place? Can you really justify being so selfish because of misinformation, and being too lazy to find out the truth on your own?
You are going to die, your organs will rot and decompose, doing neither you nor your family any good. So why not help someone live who didn’t ask for their organs to shut down on them.

Angela March 22, 2009, 7:48 PM

I am a nurse and very well educated you live in a fantasy world.There are a lot of crocked doctors out there,it seems you are not in touch with reality.I’ve seen lots of people who need transplants and die waiting for an organ.Where I work we do try our best to save every life that walks or rolls through our doors.Being in a hospital environment I’ve heard of cases just like this one.You don’t know me so don’t attack me,I have just as much right as you do to comment.Where I work a man came in with another man who needed a kidney transplant,one man was going to sell the kidney for $100,000 but my hospital refused to do the surgery.The man giving the kidney had lost his job and home and seen this as a way to support his family.All the testing was done and believe it or not he was a match.I thought this to be unfair.So the man still decide to give his kidney to his friend in another state .I’m not against organ donation but sometimes greed can get the best of anybody and that includes a doctor.I hope that you nor I or anybody we love has to get an organ transplant either.It’s a horrible thing to go through.

Angela March 22, 2009, 8:17 PM

Shaun, These parents believe that their son was given drugs and the harvest of the organs had begun before he was brain dead.I was commenting on this story not if you should give your organs away or not.You had no idea where I stood on organ donation.Please don’t judge before you know what your talking about.I am a organ donor.My friend is on the organ recovery team.I am very passionate about organ donation, I was only tring to get a point across not all hospitals and doctors are as honest.

libby March 23, 2009, 4:47 PM

Just to clarify - when we’re talking about organ donation, we’re talking about three (yes – three) COMPLETELY DIFFERENT sets of people. First, there are the ICU doctors and nurses, caring for the patient who is nearing brain death. The only concern for these doctors and nurses is the care of that patient – THEIR patient. And they do sometimes get possessive about it (he or she is THEIR patient and they don’t want anyone else touching them or determining the course of their care). But this is how it should be – because it means they will do everything possible to save that person’s life and protect that person’s family, and they aren’t about to let anyone (least of all someone from an OPO) tell them what to do or how to care for THEIR patient. Some ICU doctors and nurses will literally tell OPO staff to back off and let them do their jobs. Again, as it should be.

The second group of people are the OPO staff members – people who approach the family for donation when appropriate, and the people who arrange for the recovery and placement of the organs if the family says yes. These people are often very passionate about their jobs – they are always balancing the patient’s life against the lives of the potential recipients, and trying to spare the families of those recipients the same pain that the family of the potential donor is going through. They have profound compassion for the family, and they fully recognize the depth of the pain that family is feeling – but at the same time, they are balancing that against their responsibility to try to spare other families that same pain. Their passion is sometimes (often) at odds with what the ICU doctors and nurses are trying to do (save THEIR patient). In the end, though, the ICU docs and nurses will always win – because it is ultimately their patient, their territory, and their call – and the OPO staff have to respect that. Otherwise they would never be welcomed back.

Incidentally, all OPO’s are non-profit organizations – they do NOT profit or benefit from the “sale” of organs or tissues in any way. Yes – money changes hands in the process, and OPO’s (like any organization) have to keep the electricity on, purchase supplies, and pay their employees, but at the end of the day, an OPO CANNOT turn a profit. They are federally and locally regulated, and again, they are all NON-PROFIT organizations.

The third and final group of people involved in donation & transplantation are the transplanting surgeons and transplant coordinators – who transplant the donated organs and care for the recipients. These doctors and coordinators are completely separate from the doctors & nurses in the ICU. Do they get paid? Of course they do. But the transplant surgeons get paid like any other surgeon – and their pay isn’t related to the number or quality of the organs they transplant. And because the organ procurement process is COMPLETELY SEPARATE from the transplantation process, there is absolutely no incentive (financial or otherwise) for the doctors & nurses in the ICU to kill their patients for their organs.

Again, just for the really slow and/or misinformed, the doctors and nurses in the ICU and ER (and the doctors who were caring for Gregory Jacobs) are COMPLETELY seperate from the transplanting surgeons who transplant donated organs and tissues. So what incentive would there be for a group of ICU doctors, nurses, and technicians (because believe me, it would take a conspiracy of at least a dozen people to pull something like this off) to murder one of their patients? As I said, there’s no financial incentive, no money to be gained. And they would all have to be either criminally insane or REALLY sadistic in order to kill one of their patients with the HOPE (not the guarantee, since transplantation isn’t perfect, and like any other surgery, there are risks involved in transplanting donated organs) of saving a few other people. It wouldn’t be charity, it would be insanity. And you can’t possibly tell me that every last person involved in Gregory Jacobs’ care was completely insane. One over-zealous, VERY pro-donation doctor? Sure, okay. A dozen or more medical professionals, all so pro-donation that they would commit murder? Um, no. That’s absurd.

Also – for clarification purposes – brain death is death. It should not be confused with coma, persistent vegetative state, or traumatic brain injury. There are a great deal of the stories being told about people “miraculously coming back” from brain death – but these stories are not about brain death at all – they are stories of people who have been given one of the diagnoses mentioned above, and against all odds (and maybe even the opinions of some doctors), have made a full recovery, or at least enough of a recovery to lead productive, full, happy lives. While these stories are wonderful, they are, again, NOT about brain death. When someone is brain dead, they are dead. Their lungs keep “breathing” because a ventilator is breathing for them; they maintain blood pressure because they are given vasopressors.

In lay-terms, the only difference between cardiac death (which everyone is familiar with) and brain death is the order in which it happens. Heart then brain vs. brain then heart.

This story just highlights the importance of talking to your family about your wishes. If you don’t wish to be a donor upon your death, make sure your family KNOWS that – beyond any shadow of a doubt. Likewise, if you do wish to be a donor, make sure that your family knows THAT – because it will make it infinitely easier for them if they ever find themselves in a tragic situation and are approached about donation on your behalf.

Yes –this young boy’s death is a tragic, but the even greater tragedy here is how many additional lives will be lost due to the ignorance and misinformation that will be proliferated by this story. Any news organization that airs or publishes this story in such a biased way (without explaining the process of organ donation, but instead sensationalizing one family’s tragedy & grief) should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope they suffer many sleepless nights. They carry on their conscience all the lives that will be lost because people will see/read this story and refuse to be donors or give consent for donation on behalf of a loved one when offered that choice.

libby March 23, 2009, 4:49 PM

PART 2:


of the day, an OPO CANNOT turn a profit. They are federally and locally regulated, and again, they are all NON-PROFIT organizations.

The third and final group of people involved in donation & transplantation are the transplanting surgeons and transplant coordinators – who transplant the donated organs and care for the recipients. These doctors and coordinators are completely separate from the doctors & nurses in the ICU. Do they get paid? Of course they do. But the transplant surgeons get paid like any other surgeon – and their pay isn’t related to the number or quality of the organs they transplant. And because the organ procurement process is COMPLETELY SEPARATE from the transplantation process, there is absolutely no incentive (financial or otherwise) for the doctors & nurses in the ICU to kill their patients for their organs.

Again, just for the really slow and/or misinformed, the doctors and nurses in the ICU and ER (and the doctors who were caring for Gregory Jacobs) are COMPLETELY seperate from the transplanting surgeons who transplant donated organs and tissues. So what incentive would there be for a group of ICU doctors, nurses, and technicians (because believe me, it would take a conspiracy of at least a dozen people to pull something like this off) to murder one of their patients? As I said, there’s no financial incentive, no money to be gained. And they would all have to be either criminally insane or REALLY sadistic in order to kill one of their patients with the HOPE (not the guarantee, since transplantation isn’t perfect, and like any other surgery, there are risks involved in transplanting donated organs) of saving a few other people. It wouldn’t be charity, it would be insanity. And you can’t possibly tell me that every last person involved in Gregory Jacobs’ care was completely insane. One over-zealous, VERY pro-donation doctor? Sure, okay. A dozen or more medical professionals, all so pro-donation that they would commit murder? Um, no. That’s absurd.

Also – for clarification purposes – brain death is death. It should not be confused with coma, persistent vegetative state, or traumatic brain injury. There are a great deal of the stories being told about people “miraculously coming back” from brain death – but these stories are not about brain death at all – they are stories of people who have been given one of the diagnoses mentioned above, and against all odds (and maybe even the opinions of some doctors), have made a full recovery, or at least enough of a recovery to lead productive, full, happy lives. While these stories are wonderful, they are, again, NOT about brain death. When someone is brain dead, they are dead. Their lungs keep “breathing” because a ventilator is breathing for them; they maintain blood pressure because they are given vasopressors.

In lay-terms, the only difference between cardiac death (which everyone is familiar with) and brain death is the order in which it happens. Heart then brain vs. brain then heart.

This story just highlights the importance of talking to your family about your wishes. If you don’t wish to be a donor upon your death, make sure your family KNOWS that – beyond any shadow of a doubt. Likewise, if you do wish to be a donor, make sure that your family knows THAT – because it will make it infinitely easier for them if they ever find themselves in a tragic situation and are approached about donation on your behalf.

Yes –this young boy’s death is a tragic, but the even greater tragedy here is how many additional lives will be lost due to the ignorance and misinformation that will be proliferated by this story. Any news organization that airs or publishes this story in such a biased way (without explaining the process of organ donation, but instead sensationalizing one family’s tragedy & grief) should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope they suffer many sleepless nights. They carry on their conscience all the lives that will be lost because people will see/read this story and refuse to be donors or give consent for donation on behalf of a loved one when offered that choice.

libby March 23, 2009, 4:50 PM

PART 3:


mentioned above, and against all odds (and maybe even the opinions of some doctors), have made a full recovery, or at least enough of a recovery to lead productive, full, happy lives. While these stories are wonderful, they are, again, NOT about brain death. When someone is brain dead, they are dead. Their lungs keep “breathing” because a ventilator is breathing for them; they maintain blood pressure because they are given vasopressors.

In lay-terms, the only difference between cardiac death (which everyone is familiar with) and brain death is the order in which it happens. Heart then brain vs. brain then heart.

This story just highlights the importance of talking to your family about your wishes. If you don’t wish to be a donor upon your death, make sure your family KNOWS that – beyond any shadow of a doubt. Likewise, if you do wish to be a donor, make sure that your family knows THAT – because it will make it infinitely easier for them if they ever find themselves in a tragic situation and are approached about donation on your behalf.

Yes –this young boy’s death is a tragic, but the even greater tragedy here is how many additional lives will be lost due to the ignorance and misinformation that will be proliferated by this story. Any news organization that airs or publishes this story in such a biased way (without explaining the process of organ donation, but instead sensationalizing one family’s tragedy & grief) should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope they suffer many sleepless nights. They carry on their conscience all the lives that will be lost because people will see/read this story and refuse to be donors or give consent for donation on behalf of a loved one when offered that choice.

libby March 23, 2009, 4:52 PM

PART 3:


mentioned above, and against all odds (and maybe even the opinions of some doctors), have made a full recovery, or at least enough of a recovery to lead productive, full, happy lives. While these stories are wonderful, they are, again, NOT about brain death. When someone is brain dead, they are dead. Their lungs keep “breathing” because a ventilator is breathing for them; they maintain blood pressure because they are given vasopressors.

In lay-terms, the only difference between cardiac death (which everyone is familiar with) and brain death is the order in which it happens. Heart then brain vs. brain then heart.

This story just highlights the importance of talking to your family about your wishes. If you don’t wish to be a donor upon your death, make sure your family KNOWS that – beyond any shadow of a doubt. Likewise, if you do wish to be a donor, make sure that your family knows THAT – because it will make it infinitely easier for them if they ever find themselves in a tragic situation and are approached about donation on your behalf.

Yes –this young boy’s death is a tragic, but the even greater tragedy here is how many additional lives will be lost due to the ignorance and misinformation that will be proliferated by this story. Any news organization that airs or publishes this story in such a biased way (without explaining the process of organ donation, but instead sensationalizing one family’s tragedy & grief) should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope they suffer many sleepless nights. They carry on their conscience all the lives that will be lost because people will see/read this story and refuse to be donors or give consent for donation on behalf of a loved one when offered that choice.

Anonymous March 23, 2009, 5:42 PM

We get it libby who are you upset at blogger or the story.Get a grip.This has happened if you believe it or not,so take a chill pill. It was a story and the media put it out there because these parents are heart broken over the death of their son.Maybe you should feel a little compassion for the people in this story.Give your organs it’s not about you.It I have also heard of this happening not in the United States but in another country.I thought of it many times and when my son told me he was a donor I will have to say i discouraged him from being one.

Anonymous March 23, 2009, 10:30 PM

Pure ignorance and very poor reporting as the procedure of organ procurment was never mentioned here. Unfortunantly it is this poor reporting and ignorance of medical procedures and protocal that will hinder future organ donation. What a shame.

libby March 24, 2009, 1:11 PM

I did not intend to sound insensitive to the grief of these parents. Of course their son’s death is tragic and heartbreaking. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that they’re feeling, and my heart goes out to them. However, having worked for an OPO for 4 years and being the daughter of a kidney transplant recipient myself, I know that it’s just not possible that their son was deliberately “killed” for his organs. There are checks and balances in place to make sure that doesn’t happen. But again, my heart and my deepest condolences go out to this family - they lost their beautiful son in the prime of his life. I can see how the grief from that loss would cloud their vision - and maybe they lost sight of the wonderful thing their son was able to do, by saving the lives of several other people.

Dave March 25, 2009, 5:19 PM

The boy had a previous head injury and the doctor advised him and his parents to avoid any more head injuries and if he was to snowboard again, he should have worn a helmet in which he did not. I myself would always take the doctors advice to stay alive.


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