By Elizabeth O’Brien

  SAN LUIS OBISPO, California, July 6, 2007 ( – A California woman is filing a complaint in the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court against an organ transplant doctor and the Sierra Vista hospital for willfully deceiving her and murdering her physically handicapped son for the purpose of harvesting his organs.

  Mrs. Navarro is the mother and only surviving family of her son Ruben, who was stricken with Adrenal Leukodystrophy, a rare disorder that left him confined to a wheelchair. The court papers allege that last January, 26-year old Ruben was transferred to the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center due to a medical issue. Ms. Navarro went to visit him at the hospital where she was led to believe that Dr. Hootan Roozrokh was Ruben’s “treating doctor”. According to the complaint, he was actually working for a California organ-harvesting corporation.

The complaint also states that Roozrokh told Navarro words to the effect that, “There is nothing that can be done for your son. He is going to die.” She was also falsely informed that according to hospital policy, the plug on her son’s respirator had to be pulled after 5 days. Greatly distressed and having been led to believe that her son had no chance of survival, Ms. Navarro says she agreed to donate his organs. At no point, however, did she consent to the removal of life-support.

The complaint documents describe the following events, saying that Hospital medical staff took Ruben into the operating room where they removed the respirator. He kept breathing, however, and his heart continued to beat. At the direction of his “treating doctor,” Ruben was administered a lethal dose of morphine and Ativan. He continued to live, however, and the doctor said (as quoted by witnesses in the complaint), “Let’s give him some more candy.” After several doses of morphine, the doctors gave up, wheeled him away and left him to die without life support where he died nine hours later.

  According to Medical Advisor Dr. John Shea, the debate about whether to harvest organs usually surrounds a comatose person, a victim of a car-crash for example, who is hovering between life and death. In this case, however, it appears that Ruben was not necessarily going to die.

  The question of when a person actually dies and when or if it is ethical to remove their organs is highly debated. As Shea explained, people can be brought back to life even fifteen minutes after their heart has stopped beating. Since the notion of cardiac death was developed in 1993, he said, there has been a significant increase in the number of organs harvested. In fact, the number of “non-beating” heart donations-people who may not have actually died-more than doubled between 2003-2007 in the United States. (see

“If the allegation is true, that they gave lethal doses of morphine three times, I can’t see how that can be interpreted in any other way than deliberate homicide,” said Dr. Shea about the current case.

  Kevin D. Chaffi, the California attorney representing Rosa Nevarra, explained to that the young man didn’t have much money, he was disabled, and his mother was also disabled and lived three hours away.

“He’s the ideal victim,” Chaffi stated. Referring to the organ-harvesting corporation, the lawyer said that while he didn’t know what their motivations were specifically, “it was an opportunity for this type of situation to occur.” At the same time, he admitted that he had never come across another case like this in California.
  Chaffi continued, “I think it’s a sign that we need more protection for people with disabilities or any potential organ donor and stiffer punishment.”

  If the allegations are true, this event will have fulfilled the predictions of David Crippen, a University of Pittsburgh critical-care specialist, who stated in the Washington Post in March of this year, “Now that we’ve established that we’re going to take organs from patients who have a prognosis of death but who do not meet the strict definition of death, might we become more interested in taking organs from patients who are not dead at all but who are incapacitated or disabled?” (see

  Read related

  Organ Harvesting Before “Brain-Death” Increasingly Common, Concerned Doctors Warn

Russian Surgeons Removing Organs Saying Patients Almost Dead Anyways


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