A new medical examination of a comatose, physically decaying 9-year-old Washington boy who the District of Columbia seeks to have declared legally dead, shows he might not be "brain dead" after all.
The latest tests on Yusef Camp, who has been on aritificial life support systems at D.C. General Hospital since he went into a coma in May, contradicted at least some medical finding that the District of Columbia previously used in arguing that the support system be terminated.
The city has sought permission in court for doctors at D.C. General to discontinue the life support system.
The new report by Dr. Jayam Trouth, a neurologist, found an "improvement in (Yusef's) level of function and is not consistent with brain death."
However, Dr. Trouth's examination apparently did not include a brain scan of Yusef. All previous brain scans showed the boy no longer had activity there.
Previously medical experts who examined Camp declared he was "not only dead but actively decomposing."
Dr. Trouth's report described "squirming" movements of Yusef's head and body. When Yusef's legs are permitted to drop, "they fall gently with patient breaking fall and then slowly extending legs." The doctor also noted Yusef responded to pain. The report concluded that this evidence did not conform to definitions of brain death.
As a result of this latest report, a court-appointed guardian, who previously recommended that the life support systems be discontinued, is now asking a D.C. Superior Court judge tgo maintain Camp on the respirator.
The case, first of its kind in Washington, is considered significant by District of Columbia officials because, unlike many states, D.C. has no statute defining what constitutes death.
The court action was initiated after Camp's parents refused to authorize discontinuing treatment of their son even though medical experts declared his condition irreversible and use of the life support system futile.
The boy's father Ronald, said he believed Yusefs condition brought on when he apparently ate a pickle bought from a vendor near his Blaine Street NE home that was laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP on May 4.
Doctors who pumped the boy's stomach when he came into D.C. General's emergency room found remains of the pickle, some candy and a small quantity of marijuana. One test of three performed later found some traces of PCP in his stomach.
Police later exonerated the pickle vener, having found no evidence of drugs on his truck, and dropped the investigation.
Camp has asserted that doctors at D.C. General were trying to kill his son because of a negligence suit he had filed that alleges the hospital doctors are responsible for Yusef's condition. The suit asks for $35 million in damages.
The hospital, which believes it has offered everything possible in the way of medical expertise to save Yusef, requested guidance from the D.C. corporation counsel's office, which in turn went into court.
Yusef Camp currently is in the intensive care unit at D.C. General. His breathing is controlled by a respirator, his blood pressure is maintained by drugs and his body temperature is kept at 97 degrees by an electric blanket. b
Doctors said they have found maggots in Yusef's lungs and nasal passages, and that his right foot and ankle are gangrenous. He had shown no response to noises, manipulation or painful stimuli and no spontaneous movement, according to earlier medical reports.
The legal guardian appointed by D.C. Superior Court Judge Leonard Braman to represent Yusef's interests concluded that any movements of the youth were reflex actions centering in the spine.
The guardian, John F. Mahoney Jr., therefore recommended to Judge Branman that Yusef's life support system be discontinued. However, after the reexamination, Mahoney changed his opinion.
One of the medical experts who previously had diagnose Yusef as legally dead, disputed the new conclusions. "What has been noted as movements are reflex movements, not brain activity," said Dr. Donald J. Fishman