UPDATE: Father of little girl who was being kept alive by hospital for her organs wins fight in court

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By The New York Times

The fight over the fate of a 2-year-old Brooklyn girl’s organs ended on Tuesday, with the girl’s father prevailing in his wishes to keep her body intact.

Thaiya Spruill-Smith, the victim of an assault to which her stepfather has confessed, was declared brain-dead on Friday but had been kept on life support as her parents argued over whether her organs should be donated.

The argument spilled into Family Court in Brooklyn, and was to center on who had legal custody over Thaiya.

The custody issue, it turned out, was moot.

Because the girl’s father, Terrell Smith, is on Thaiya’s birth certificate and there is no dispute that he is her father, he and the girl’s mother each have an equal right to help determine what happens with her organs.

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Julia Rivera, the communications director for the New York Organ Donor Network, said that in cases where there was unresolved family disagreement — and the patient was not enrolled on the New York State Donate Life Registry — donation was not possible under public health law.

Ms. Rivera emphasized that she could not comment on an individual case. But speaking in general, she said organ and tissue donation “can only occur when there is agreement amongst family members to proceed with donation.” Mr. Smith met on Monday with Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center staff members, who showed him scans of Thaiya’s brain, his lawyer, David J. Hernandez, said. Mr. Smith now agrees that Thaiya is brain-dead and should be taken off life support.

He still objected to donating her organs, though, and Mr. Hernandez said if one parent objected, the organs would not be donated.

On Tuesday morning, before the court hearing, Mr. Hernandez expressed concern that donating Thaiya’s organs could compromise a criminal investigation against the girl’s stepfather, David Adams.

“What is the motive of the mom suddenly being so gracious, to say, ‘We’ll give these organs away’?” he asked.

The actual court hearing on Tuesday afternoon was over in a few minutes. Once custody no longer mattered, Mr. Smith withdrew his petition.

“I cannot even imagine what the two of you must be going through at this time,” Judge Maria Arias told Mr. Smith and Teoka Spruill, the girl’s mother.

“I am a parent but I have never suffered” in that way, Judge Arias added.

Ms. Spruill said little at the hearing, and she did not address reporters afterward. She had said that donating her daughter’s organs would mean some good would come of her death.

Ms. Spruill’s grandmother, Diane Howard, said on Tuesday night that the family was uncertain of its next move. “I don’t have any information right now,” she said from the window of her home in Jamaica, Queens. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Mr. Adams, 25, admitted to violently shaking Thaiya, and doctors said the bleeding and excess fluid in her brain were consistent with shaking. He is charged with assault, and the Brooklyn district attorney expected to upgrade the charges to murder if the medical examiner ruled the death is a homicide.

A spokesman for Brookdale, Khari Edwards, said the hospital was not aware of any decision from the parents. “We are just a facilitator; whatever is worked out between the two parents” is what the hospital will do, he said.

Mr. Hernandez said Thaiya would soon be taken off life support.

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