Two New Jersey families fight to keep their sons on life-support

“Eerily similar” cases, shades of Alfie Evans

By Dave Andrusko

Areen Chakrabarti celebrating his 14th birthday with his mother, Rumpa. He was declared brain dead at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which seeks to remove him from life support.
Courtesy Rumpa Banerjee

In an incredible coincidence two families are fighting to keep their sons on life support at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

CHOP has declared both Areen Chakrabarti and Jayden Auyeung brain-dead and want them taken off of ventilators, according to Fox News,

However, “Both boys are from New Jersey where state law provides a religious exception to families whose loved ones are declared brain dead, but whose heart and blood continue to pump through life support machines,” reported WTXF. “It’s the second time in less than one month that a family has fought brain death diagnoses by CHOP doctors.

“The families’ attorney calls it unprecedented. Protesters say it’s about time.” (The two families share the same attorney, Chris Bagnato.) “Both parents say they know what is best for their child and they refuse to give up hope.”

The cases have taken on added visibility in light of the battle in Great Britain over Alfie Evans. Alfie’s degenerative brain disease was never specifically diagnosed, but like these parents, Tom Evans and Kate James fought the hospital, in their case to move Alfie to a more sympathetic hospital in Rome. Eventually Alfie’s ventilator was cut off and he died five days later.

Last Saturday, a group of pro-life protestors stood outside CHOP to draw attention, they said, from facilities in New Jersey who might take in 10-year-old Jayden and 14-year-old Areen.

As various accounts observed, the cases are “eerily” similar.

Both young men already faced major challenges. Although confined to a wheelchair because of a motor neuron disease, Jayden “is a music lover, songwriter and even bilingual,” according to Tom Avril, writing at Philly.com.

Three weeks ago, hours after his mother recorded a video of him, Jayden was admitted to CHOP and “declared brain dead after suffering cardiac arrest. Anna said doctors counseled her and her husband to take Jayden off life support. But, his mother said as long as she can feel his heart beat, he is alive.”

As Avril explained

Areen is on the autism spectrum, and in the confusion when their Bordentown home caught fire April 14, he ran upstairs rather than outside, and suffered severe brain damage from smoke inhalation.

His mom, Rumpa Banerjee, has run into a brick wall. Each time she asked any of five New Jersey hospitals to admit Areen, she has been told “that first they need to speak to officials at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”

Avril adds, “And then, nothing.” In the meantime

Banerjee and her sister, Tumpa, have maintained a near-constant vigil at the boy’s bedside, where he is connected to a ventilator and intravenous fluids. She said the boy’s systolic blood pressure rises as high as 160 when she does not speak for an extended period of time, then falls to the more normal level of 130 when she resumes speaking.

“He is trying to respond,” she said.