A neurologist at Children's Hospital has found evidence that 9-year-old Yusef Camp, who has been in a coma at D.C. General Hospital since May, shows minimal signs of life and is not "brain dead" as contended by city officials.
After previous tests, other medical experts had asserted that Yusef, who apparently became ill after ingesting an unknown quantity of drugs, was "not only dead but actively decomposing."
Based on that information, the D.C. corporation counsel, joined by a court-appointed guardian of the youth, asked that life support systems connected to Camp be disconnected. A second report by D.C. General neurologist Jayam Trouth found some signs that were inconsistent with "brain death." That changed the view of the guardian, but not the corporation counsel.
The third and latest tests on Camp were performed by Samuel A. Shelburne, the Children's Hospital neurologist, who said he observed "spontaneous movements" of Camp's head,m, body and limbs -- futher signs that brain death had not occured.
Shelburne conducted his examination at the request of Camp's parents, who have refused to authorize discontinuing treatment of their son.
"I realize that several competent consultants have given the opinion that the patient is brain dead," Shelburne's report says. "It is my clinical opinion, on the basis of my examination of the child and review of the hospital records, that the child is not brain dead."
Shelburne said that is was more appropriate to categorize Camp's condition as "irreversible coma" or "vegetative state." He said Camp's chances for recovery were virtually nil, however, and "the child's quality of life would be very poor."
Camp is in the intensive care unit of D.C. General.Doctors said they have found maggots in Camp's lungs and nasal passages, and that his right foot and ankle are gangrenous.
City officials refused to comment yesterday on the new doctor's report, which contradicted the city's own original medical experts. "It's getting complicated, isn't it?" said one of those experts yesterday, Dr. Donald J. Fishman. "I stand by my diagnosis."
The case, the first of its kind in Washington, is considered significant by District of Columbia officials because unlike many states, D.C. has no statues defining what constitutes death.