Brain death was suffered as a result of complications following a tonsillectomy. That was the testimony of the court appointed doctor on Tuesday regarding the untimely death of 13-year-old Jahi McMath.
However, Jahi’s immediate family argues that she may have suffered brain death, but she is still alive this Christmas Eve, and they do not want her taken off of life support. Hospital lawyers have disagreed arguing that the Northern California teen is showing no signs of life clinically, therefore she must be taken off of life support.
How will society define life and death, and who says so?
With an insightful twist, the family of Jahi McMath has hired an unexpected expert to argue for Jahi’s life. The McMath family attorney is requesting another evaluation of Jahi be done by Dr. Paul Byrne. He is a pediatric professor at the University of Toledo.
The hospital’s attorney countered by saying that Dr. Byrne is not a pediatric neurologist.
So, who is Dr. Byrne and why does the McMath family want him to help save their daughter’s life?
Dr. Byrne is the co-editor of a 2001 book titled, Beyond Brain Death, and in that book one finds a range of articles that argue against the use of brain-based criteria for declaring a person dead.
In other words, even if she has suffered brain death, this California teen is still alive in important and meaningful ways. She is still alive on Christmas Eve because her family has decided to fight for her.
The hospital attorneys argue that Jahi is practically and legally dead. As such there is nothing that can be done to bring her back to life. But, in Byrne’s book there are eleven articles claiming that current laws defining death are not accurate and valid. For example, it is possible that irreversible cessation of brain function need not imply complete destruction of the brain.
The arguments quickly become complicated, but that is why these laws have been passed without much notice. Most people do not keep up with the medical and legal definitions of death. However, Jahi McMath’s family was able to quickly agree that their daughter is not dead. She is still alive. Parts of her brain may not be functioning, but she is on a respirator. The fact is that if she were dead she would not be able to sustain the respirator’s activity. Jahi’s family thinks the part of her that is still breathing is still alive.
Furthermore, they cannot believe Jahi’s attending physicians disagree, and they are in disbelief over the hospital attorney’s legal dismissal of their daughter’s life. Dr. Byrne’s book presents two distinct ways to approach the medical definition of death. Either the person has a brain that has been totally destroyed but the rest of their body is alive and functioning, or a person has suffered complete brain destruction, cardiovascular collapse, and further rapid organ deterioration.
In this way, the entire book Beyond Brain Death says it is completely valid scientifically to pose the question, ‘is the destruction of the brain identical to the death of the person?’
Children’s Hospital of Oakland filed in court on Tuesday morning requesting the teen be taken off of life support. Her family wants to keep the 13-year-old connected to a respirator and is asking for another opinion. The family does not want the hospital to remove the teen from life support without their permission.
While the physicians, scientists, and attorneys argue about whether or not Jahi is dead, her family is just grateful to behold her breathing on Christmas Eve. It is a strange and ironic mystery of life that professionally trained medical scientists would be debating whether or not a person is actually dead. However, when even the scientists cannot agree, it is almost impossible not to agree with Jahi McMath’s parents and family. This Christmas Eve an entire nation is praying for Jahi McMath and her family.
According to FOX News, one medical ethics expert noted that if the hospital keeps Jahi on a ventilator it will cost thousands of dollars a day. At the same time, since Jahi has already been declared brain dead, her medical treatment from this point forward will likely not be covered by any health insurance.
Yes, Jahi may have suffered brain death, but the California teen is still alive and breathing this Christmas Eve, and her parents are not going to give up this fight easily, says Jahi’s family.
By: Alex Durig