FIELDSBORO — Fourteen-year-old Areen Chakrabarti remained in a coma Friday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, his organs being kept alive by a life-support system that keeps him breathing.

But a day earlier, the hospital wanted to pull the plug against the wishes of Areen’s mother, who is now battling the hospital in court over the fate of her son.

The hospital, whose doctors say Areen has been brain dead for more than a week, insist on taking him off life support. But Rumpa Banerjee believes there is still hope, saying she can feel movement in his hands and feet.

“They’re saying he is brain dead but that doesn’t mean he’s dead in my book,” said Christopher Bagnato, a Philadelphia attorney representing the mother and child.

On Thursday — the day the hospital was supposed to end life support — Bagnato filed an emergency petition in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia pointing out that “numerous examples can be found of persons being diagnosed as ‘brain dead’ and then recovering and regaining consciousness after far longer period than the 12-day period that has elapsed since Areen’s injury. “

They said this has nothing to do with cost. I myself think it has everything to do with cost ...

A judge granted an order barring the hospital from pulling the plug on Thursday.

On Friday, the judge transferred the case to the Orphans’ Court Division, a specialized court that protects the rights of children and incapacitated people.

Bagnato says this move may keep Areen on life support indefinitely as the legal battle continues.

Unlike in New Jersey, the law in Pennsylvania considers a “brain dead” person to be legally dead. But Bagnato says that does not give the hospital the right to end life support.

In his petition, Bagnato points to a 2013 Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling that found that a hospital should have ended its quest to remove a patient from life support after the patient’s guardian refused.

In that case, the hospital had convinced a lower court to replace the guardian with someone who would grant permission. Even though the patient eventually died, the Superior Court found the case important enough to consider the appeal anyway.

"This case illustrates very clearly that [CHOP] is not at liberty to remove life support from petitioner’s son,” Bagnato wrote in his petition.

(Courtesy Christopher Bagnato)
(Courtesy Christopher Bagnato)

Areen was admitted to CHOP on April 15, a day after he was hospitalized at a Capital Health System hospital in New Jersey. Areen suffered severe smoke inhalation after being trapped in his family's burning home.

It is not clear why CHOP won’t keep Areen on life support. A spokeswoman for the hospital declined to comment on Friday.

“They said this has nothing to do with cost. I myself think it has everything to do with cost,” Bagnato said, pointing out that the treatment is covered by the father’s insurance and that the insurance company has not objected to the treatment. “The hospital doesn’t want to waste money or resources on a child that in their mind is dead.”

Bagnato says CHOP had provided the family just 24 hours to find another hospital that could take Areen before they would cut off life support. But with the case now in Orphans’ Court, the family will have more time to search for a new facility.

“That could be weeks, months — I bought the family the time they are looking for," Bagnato said.

In the meantime, he says, “we’re asking anyone in New Jersey to at least help find a facility” willing to keep Areen alive.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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