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Published on February 22, 2024
Michigan Judge Sides With Family to Block Organ Donation Despite License IndicatorSource: Google Street View

A Michigan family's legal battle to halt the organ donation of their loved one, who was pronounced brain dead, resulted in a courtroom victory this week. Jazmine Phillips was put on life support after being declared brain dead on Feb. 16, and despite her status as an organ donor on her driver's license, the family contended she had reversed her decision on the matter. Muskegon County Chief Judge Kenneth Hoopes granted the family's petition on Tuesday, ruling in their favor to stop the organ-harvesting process by Gift of Life Michigan, as reported by WWJ Newsradio.

The crux of the family's argument centered around Phillips having verbally expressed her change of heart regarding organ donation, intending to remove her name from the donor list when her license expired in 2026. During the proceedings, a statement from Phillips' aunt's girlfriend, recounting Phillips' desire to keep her organs during a drive to the hospital, played a key role in the judge's decision. Hoopes cited the girlfriend's legal distance from Phillips as a contributing factor in placing more weight on her testimony, as she reported to ClickOnDetroit.

In contrast to the family's claims, representatives from Gift of Life Michigan argued that the license, completed voluntarily, provided objective evidence of Phillips' initial intent to donate her organs. Nevertheless, Jill Erickson, lawyer for Gift of Life, acknowledged the court's ruling stating, “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.” according to an email obtained by RochesterFirst. The organization has since decided not to appeal the judge's decision.

An emotional victory for the family, Phillips' mother, Kameka Johnson, expressed her gratitude for the support they received, “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.” Johnson told WWJ Newsradio. The family has relayed that Phillips, mother of two sons, will not face a solitary end in an unfamiliar place but will be surrounded by love in her final moments.

For those registered as donors, it serves as a reminder to have conversations with family members about their wishes and to update the registry accordingly. Michigan residents can sign up to be organ donors or remove their names from the registry online, by mail, or in person with the Secretary of State.