Note: At the end of this article is a link to a site that talks about the medical ethics regarding this case posted on Aug 17, 2007.
The early part of the 21st century, like the middle of the last, may be remembered as a series of horrific events perpetrated on a particular group of people. The exterminations and mutilations of people with disabilities must stop.
Ruben Navarro is the latest person with a disability to lose his life to murderers disguised as doctors and caregivers. To Dr. Hootan Roozrokh, Ruben's life and body were little more than an organ donor factory.
He was a
Rosa told reporters in her
When Ruben was 10, Rosa noticed he was falling frequently. “Watching Ruben play with other 10-year-olds was like watching Bambi on ice,” she said in a March 2007 interview.
He had adrenal leukodystrophy (ALD). It is a progressive genetic disability that over time breaks down the padding around the nerves throughout the body. That padding is called myelin and without it, nerves can't function normally, or at all. The 1992 movie "Lorenzo's Oil" raised awareness about Ruben’s rare disability. It’s a horrible illness; but it is not nearly as horrible as the atrocities he suffered at the hands of a morally corrupt doctor and an apathetic medical establishment.
Life wasn't easy for Ruben and Rosa, but they were doing all right. Other than the onward progression of ALD, Ruben was happy. His downward cycle started, a few years after Ruben graduated from high school.
First he developed bed sores, a sign of neglectful care. Then he had a dangerous seizure, as the direct result of not getting his needed seizure medication. Then on January 29, 2006, staff at the institution found Ruben in his bed, not breathing. At
That is standard way the medical establishment treats people with disabilities. The rationale seems to be, “He’s got a progressive disability that’s going to kill him eventually, maybe not right now, but it will. Why go through it all? Let’s just withhold treatment."
No doctor informed
Then the ghouls … Hootan Roozrokh and the California Transplant Donor Network entered the picture. Rosa believed the doctors when they told her Ruben would die as soon they removed the respirator. She did not give authorization to remove it; but they already told her they didn’t need her permission and it would be removed in five days. Period. She was ill-informed, grieving and deeply depressed by the loss of her beloved son when the Donor Network called and asked for permission to take his organs.
There is a window of opportunity for harvesting organs. They must be removed within 30-60 minutes after the removal of the respirator. If they are not removed then, the organs are not fresh enough and must be rejected.
At 11:00 pm on February 3, 2006 they wheeled Ruben Navarro into operating room 3, removed his respirator and started watching the clock. He wasn’t dying fast enough.
Violating the hospital's protocol and a state law, Roozrokh took over caring for Navarro before he was declared dead. He ordered a nurse to give Navarro two abnormally high doses of morphine and Ativan to hasten death, according to an investigation by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Still Ruben hung on.
Roozrokh said, “Let’s give him some more candy,” and the nurse complied once again. Six nurses, doctors and technicians who were in the operating room, made not one move to intervene on Ruben’s behalf. Later in a police investigation interview, one nurse reported that at that point, Ruben was "frothing from the mouth and shivering." And still, he struggled to stay alive.
When the “window of opportunity” passed and Roozrokh could no longer take his organs, Mr. Ruben Navarro was of no use to them. They wheeled him into another room and left him. He died the next day at 8 a.m. apparently alone.
He received between 200 to 220 milligrams of morphine, depending on the source. A dose of 120 mg is often fatal. The recommended dose to anesthetize a 1200 pound horse is 136 mg. Reaction to the drug starts almost immediately, and include: drowsiness, nausea, the face swells, the patient feels cold and cyanosis occurs. (Cyanosis is when the extremities turn bluish-gray because the blood vessels in the extremities close down. The body sends the blood to the brain and the heart, trying to protect them from damage). The eyes dilate to pinpoints and do not react to light and dark. Breathing slows down and becomes noisy. The pulse slows and becomes weak. Death is by respiratory failure.
At the same time Ruben was getting Morphine, he also received 80 mg of the very powerful drug, Ativan. Since Ativan suppresses the central nervous system (CNS), the manufacturer advises against its simultaneous use with CNS depressant drugs; including morphine. Morbidly overweight people can safely receive intravenous doses around 2 mg. Ruben weighed 80 pounds.
In his haste to get the prized booty, Roozrokh inserted a nasal/gastric tube down Ruben’s throat and poured Betadine, an iodine solution, into his stomach. This is a normal sterilization procedure when getting a donor stomach; only, the procedure is supposed to happen after a person dies.
Betadine is not to be taken internally. If it is, the stomach will digest it, causing acute iodine poisoning and the following symptoms: kidney failure, burning the stomach lining, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, circulatory collapse, and strangulation because the throat swells, or fluid fills the lungs.
Crime & Punishment
You’d think the state of
Roozrokh is charged with dependent adult abuse, administering a harmful substance and prescribing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. If he is found guilty of all the charges, the maximum sentence for this gruesome murder will be eight measly years.
State law and the network's rules prohibit transplant doctors from getting anywhere close to the potential donor before a declaration of death by an attending physician. Why were no state charges filed for breaking that law?
Prosecutors did not charge Roozrokh with murder because they said the drugs did not cause Ruben's death. Seriously, Ruben received three times the recommended dose of morphine, 40 times the safe dose of Ativan, and had poison forced into his stomach on top of that, how could that NOT cause Ruben’s death?
He did not die of adrenal leukodystrophy; his disease had not progressed that far. Ruben could have enjoyed many more years to watch
Now, a year and a half later, the others in operating room 3 say they were very concerned about what Roozrokh was doing. If they were that concerned why didn't they stop it? After the organs could no longer be ripped out of Ruben’s body and Roozrokh left, why didn't just one of them try to undo what the doctor had done? They are as guilty as Roozrokh, but cleared of all charges.
Ruben died at the hand of a sadistic, cold-hearted murderer and six other people watched and/or aided in the administration of massive doses of medication and poison.
Ruben died because the medical establishment thinks a life with disability is not worth living; we’re better off dead. He died because policies make it impossible to get adequate in-home services and supports. He died because we have a for-profit healthcare system where every decision is based on the bottom line.
What are medical ethicists talking about as a result of this case? They are saying people might stop donating organs for fear the same thing might befall them. They ignore the unspeakable crime perpetrated on a 25 year old. If Ruben was able-bodied, he’d be alive. And, if by some great travesty of justice, it happened, one doctor and six others attending the doctor would be up for first-degree, premeditated murder.
How many more like Ruben will be tortured and murdered before the 21st century actually lives up to its promise of equal treatment and enlightenment?
Related article on the medical ethics concerning this murder: Botched organ harvesting: 'Clearly wrong' By R. W. Dellinger
Arnquist, Sarah. Claims In Transplant Case Detailed. The (
Arnquist, Sarah. Civil Suit In Donor Attempt Broadens. Tribune, The (
Hoops, Stephanie, He Lives in Her Heart.