The heart of Nick Torres, the 10-month-old whose parents sued Texas Children’s Hospital to keep him on life support, stopped beating Tuesday hours after he was released from the facility.
Dr. Joseph Varon, a critical care doctor at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, told reporters that Nick’s heart stopped at the family home around 5:15 p.m. CT.
“Unfortunately, the heartbeat of the baby has actually stopped,” said Varon, who took an interest in the case and was helping the family. “We were able to safely transport him to his home, where he remained for a couple of hours and then his heart rate slowly went down until it stopped.”
Doctors at the hospital had declared Torres brain dead on September 30, according court documents the family had filed in hopes of forcing the hospital staff to keep the baby on a ventilator.
The hospital agreed Tuesday to release the boy, who was found last month unconscious in a bathtub in Harris County, according to court documents. The lawsuit against the hospital was dismissed Tuesday, the hospital said in a statement.
“With the full approval and authorization of the Harris County Medical Examiner, Texas Children’s released the body to the family. We continue to do everything we reasonably can to support the Torres family in this very tragic and difficult situation,” the hospital said in the statement.
A Texas appeals court on Friday denied an emergency appeal filed by Nick’s parents, Mario and Ana Patricia Torres.
The parents argued Nick was alive because his heart was beating on its own.
“His heart is still beating, apparently his temperature is still being regulated by some part of his brain,” family attorney Kevin Acevedo said. “He may be unconscious but he’s not fully brain dead.”
The hospital said medical evaluations showed “complete cessation of all spontaneous brain activity” and the child was dead based on Texas law, according to court documents.
Varon said the moments before Nick’s heart stopped Tuesday “were very emotional.”
“When I saw that the heart was starting to slow down, I brought in the family. The family surrounded the baby,” he said. “They were praying. Everybody was very respectful, praying (for) the kid.”
On Saturday, the Harris County Medical Examiner said in a letter the hospital was allowed to release the child to his parents.
In a statement to media that same day, the law firm representing the family said neither the lawyer nor the parents would comment further on the case.
Baby was found unconscious in bathtub
Nick had been in intensive care since September 24 after being found unconscious in a bathtub, “laying in water and unresponsive,” according to the lawsuit.
He was transferred to the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston from the first hospital he was taken to.
After six days, the complaint says, hospital staff told Nick’s parents they must disconnect the child from any life-support system because he wasn’t showing any signs of brain activity, and said this was enough to declare him “deceased.”
A brain death exam was performed on September 27, the hospital said, which was positive. A subsequent evaluation showed no evidence of blood flow in the brain.
Dr. Matthew Musick, the senior medical director for the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, said in a court filing he pronounced the boy dead on September 30 and that the boy’s body was showing “postmortem deterioration.”
The boy’s “current condition and physiological changes have nothing to do with the presence of oxygen provided by the ventilator. In addition, these changes cannot be stopped or slowed by the ventilator or any other service,” Musick said.