Judge grants family’s request to stop woman’s organ donation

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge on Tuesday sided with a family that wanted to stop a Michigan woman’s organs from being donated, agreeing that Jaszmine Phillips did not want to be a donor.

Muskegon County Chief Judge Kenneth Hoopes granted Phillips’ family’s petition to prevent the donation.

“I am so happy. You can’t tell me what a community can’t do,” Phillips’ mother Kameka Johnson told Nexstar’s WOOD after the ruling. “God turned a miracle today. She belongs to us, not to the state. I am overjoyed and I thank everybody for sharing, watching, liking, reposting, showing up in numbers. I’m so grateful.”

The family’s attorney, Mike Oakes, argued that recent statements from Phillips that she did not want to donate overrode the donor designation on her driver’s license.

What happens after you say ‘yes’ to organ donation?

“…Jaszmine Phillips had expressed to numerous individuals her desire to not donate her organs. The respondent would have this court to rely on the fact that over a decade ago, she selected to be an organ donor on her driver’s license,” Oakes said.

But the lawyer for Gift of Life Michigan, Jill Erickson, said it seemed as though the family was trying to countermand Phillips’ wishes.

“This hearing today is about honoring the decision that Miss Phillips made during her lifetime,” Erickson said. “…The only person who is capable of revoking the decision for the donor to become a donor is actually the donor. The gift cannot be revoked by a third party.”

Oakes presented three witnesses to prove his case. The one that seemed to make up Hoopes’ mind was what he called a “disinterested witness” — one who was not a family member. That person was Phillips’ aunt’s girlfriend, who drove with Phillips and the aunt to the hospital on Feb. 14.

“The entire ride, all I could hear her saying — to her auntie, she wasn’t saying it to no one else but her aunt — ‘I don’t want them to kill me. I want to keep my organs. I don’t want them to have my organs,’” the girlfriend said.

She said she did not know Phillips well, having been involved with the aunt for less than a year and having met Phillips only a couple of times.

“When the court looks at the statements of Miss Phillips and … this unfortunate definition of an organ donation may equate to someone being, their life being terminated prematurely by the hospital — again, the court finds that to be extremely unfortunate — but I do believe that that is what was going on in the mind of Miss Phillips at the time that she made her declaration and therefore the court is going to grant the petition,” Hoopes said.

judge grants family’s request to stop woman’s organ donation

An undated courtesy photo of Jaszmine Phillips.

Phillips was pronounced brain dead on Feb. 16, two days after she went to Trinity Health Muskegon with a bad headache. When Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s organ donation program, arrived to collect her organs, her family pushed back. While they admitted that her driver’s license lists her as a donor, they said she told them she did not want to be one and she intended to change her donor status when her license expired in 2026.

“If we’re granted what we’re asking for, she will be surrounded by a lot of love, including her two sons in the last moments that we will have her here on earth, she won’t be shipped over the highway, she won’t be cut open and then stuck in a freezer box until the funeral home gets her,” Phillips’ mother told WOOD on Monday. “She’s going to go the way her family would want her to go, the way she would’ve wanted to go, not alone. A room full of strangers tearing you apart to get pieces of your organs, that’s not what Jaszmine wanted.”

Erickson indicated in court that Gift of Life Michigan intended to appeal the ruling, but in an email to WOOD, a spokesperson for the organization said it would not appeal.

“Gift of Life Michigan has an obligation to honor the legal decision of a registered organ donor to save the lives of others after death, and we respect today’s court decision. Our hearts are with Jaszmine’s family, and we express our deepest sympathies for their loss.”

GIFT OF LIFE MICHIGAN

In court, Trinity Heath Muskegon’s attorney said the hospital would abide by whatever orders the court issues. The attorney said the hospital’s doctors don’t handle the organ donation process and that Gift of Life Michigan takes donors to a separate facility for the donation procedure.

Carter Gent and Demetrios Sanders contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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