Judge Orders Life System Turned Off to Allow Organ Donation
Nov. 11, 1989
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A judge ordered doctors to turn off the life-support system for a comatose 13-year-old girl despite her mother's wish that she be kept alive until her brother can return from abroad to say goodbye.
After an emotional hour-long hearing, state District Judge Jack E. Hunter ruled Friday that Djahna Iolani Vogler's support system could be turned off so doctors could recover organs for transplant operations.
The girl's father, Tx Paul Delmar Vogler of Houston, had sought the order.
Hunter's ruling was sent to the hospital by fax machine and the system was disconnected. The teen-ager died a short time later and some of her organs were recovered by an organ bank, officials said.
The girl was being treated for an overdose of an anti-depressant she ingested Monday at a home for psychologically disturbed youths.
The girl had been comatose since being brought to the DeTar Hospital in Victoria, 50 miles north of Corpus Christi, and doctors Thursday declared her brain dead.
''There's no way to say how long those organs will be viable,'' Dr. Richard Sawyers testified over a telephone speaker in the Corpus Christi courtroom. ''She could have a heart attack or kidney failure.''
Djahna's mother, Terry Sue Vogler of Corpus Christi, had asked Hunter to keep Djahna on life support until Mrs. Vogler's son, Steven, stationed with the Army in West Germany, could return.
''He said, 'Mama, I'm coming home ... don't let them do anything until I get there,''' Mrs. Vogler told the judge.
Mrs. Vogler, who didn't oppose the organ donation, wept as Hunter issued the ruling.
''The court must look at the overall picture,'' Hunter said. ''The only reason the child is alive now is because of the respirator. The heart, liver and kidneys will give life to another individual.
''Mrs. Vogler, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the entire family.''
Steven Vogler, 22, apparently arrived home to Corpus Christi Friday night, some hours after the hearing.
Djahna had overdosed on desipramine, an anti-depressant. She had been living at the Devereux Foundation, a private psychiatric treatment facility where she was placed last summer on the recommendation of a doctor who said she suffered from depression.
Her parents were divorced almost nine years ago. The teen-ager was in the legal custody of her father.