Brain death means there is no possibility of recovery and that it is time to learn to let a loved one go. When severe trauma and injury occur to the brain, sometimes irreversible damage occurs that causes the brain tissues to die. Once this happens, there is no medical treatment that can reverse this kind of death. The once living person is now just a body, or empty shell, with no ability to live without putting the body onto life support. In most cases, life support is only used to keep the living tissues alive for organ donor harvesting.
About a week ago, a 13 year old girl named Jahi McMath went into a routine tonsillectomy surgery that thousands of children go through every year. Sadly, Jahi did not make it out of surgery due to serious complications that occurred. Jahi needed the surgery in order to treat her severe sleep apnea, but she eventually started to bleed severely out of her mouth and nose. She received blood transfusions and medication to try and stop the bleeding but ended up in cardiac arrest. Jahi is now on life support as her parents requested. A couple days later, brain scans showed that she was brain dead.
Little Jahi’s family was obviously devastated when they were notified of her brain death. Although, due to the holidays coming up, the family had to fight the hospital to keep her body alive in order to spend Christmas with her, along with hopes and prayers that God may still heal her.
Dealing with such an event is something no one would want to go through. But is it right to keep a loved one’s body alive even though they are proclaimed dead with no chance of recovery? For years this subject has always been a heated debate. Many people agree that loved ones need to say their goodbyes and let them pass peacefully. Although there are some folks that have trouble coping with the reality that their loved one is gone. It can be difficult for loved ones to think of what their family member would really want in such a situation, especially when it comes down to this young 13 year old girl that was supposed to have many years ahead of her.
Many people chose to have living wills that specifically state that they are not to be resuscitated or to be put onto life support. Especially in cases that certain health complications could cause severe debilitation if it did not ultimately cause sudden death. In Jahi’s case, there obviously was no reason for the family to even think that they had to have such paperwork in place. Most children come through tonsillectomy surgery fairly well without complications. Although not considered very common, it is known that complication risks do rise along with the age of the patient with this kind of surgery, and bleeding is the number one complication risk.
Brain death is actually a little easier to pronounce, more so than death from a cardiac event, due to the strict guidelines that are used to show obvious tissue death to the brain that will not recover. Jahi’s story is very different from the Terri Schiavo’s story, as Terri was left in a permanent vegetative state and then was removed in 2005 from life support. Jahi was proclaimed brain dead, and health professionals have no duty in treating the dead. No matter what Jahi’s family says, the hospital and its employees do not have to keep her body on life support. Brain death means no recovery, and Jahi’s family just needs to learn to let her go and rest in peace.
By Tina Elliott