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Jesse Koochin Passes Away

Jesse Koochin Passes Away

Posted - Nov. 19, 2004 at 10:31 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A 6-year-old brain-dead boy whose parents fought to remove him from hospital care, hoping that alternative treatment would cure him, died Friday.

Jesse Koochin, of Clearwater, Fla., was declared brain-dead by doctors but was ordered kept on life support by a judge after the parents insisted he could recover.

He was brought to St. Mark's Hospital in Salt Lake City by ambulance just after 1 a.m., according to hospital spokeswoman Deb Reiner. Doctors were unable to resuscitate him and he died at 1:30 a.m., Reiner said.

The hospital said the family requested privacy.

The boy had been in a coma after suffering complications from brain cancer. Doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center said he was dead, but his parents maintained that he still was alive and capable of recovery. After winning a restraining order Oct. 13 that kept Jesse on life support, Steve and Gayle Koochin took him home two days later.

Jesse had been hospitalized in three states and in Mexico, as his family went to great lengths to treat his cancer.

His father maintained that Jesse had previously fallen into a coma and was given about a week to live, but then responded to treatment in Mexico. He believed the same would be true in Utah, and after the boy had been released to the family Steve Koochin gleefully reported every twitch and response to touch his son made.

Meanwhile, the family with the help of a Hospice worker, tried to nurse Jesse back to health with alternative medicine and fed him organic juices intravenously.

The Koochins came to Utah to see a local doctor who could provide alternative treatment designed to rehabilitate his immune system. The boy was so ill, however, the doctor sent the family immediately to the emergency room at Primary Children's, where he was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer.

The size of his tumor more than tripled in the few days he spent at the hospital and his brain stem was eventually pushed down through the base of his skull. Two separate doctors, following rigorous protocols, declared the boy brain dead.

Dr. Chris Maloney, Primary's associate medical director for medical services, said Jesse's brain had even begun to decompose and that would eventually lead to cardiac death.

Primary Children's declined to comment on the boy's passing, except to say, "the staff here would express their deepest sympathy to the family," said spokeswoman Bonnie Midget.

A call to the family's attorney in Salt Lake City was not immediately returned.

In Utah, there is no case law regarding whether doctors have to keep patients they believe are dead on life support. The law says a person is dead if physicians have determined "irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem."

Statutes provide guidance in cases where a patient has an advance medical directive or family members want to remove their loved one from life support. But they do not state what should happen when a family disagrees with a doctor's determination of death.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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