Brain Dead Is Dead-Jahi McMath Family and Unethical Actions

Brain Dead

Someone who is brain dead is dead. This is true in all 50 states in the U.S. and in the District of Columbia. Therefore, Jahi McMath, the little girl who suffered irreversible complications stemming from a tonsillectomy, is legally and for all practical purposes-dead. Doctors who are treated the girl also state that she is dead and are now fighting with her family and their highly unethical actions in trying to keep McMath tethered to machines which will artificially pump blood through her body and keep her heart beating. McMath’s family is embroiled in a legal fight with the California hospital where her body lies.

According to legal website USlegal, someone who has experienced “whole brain death” is dead. The website explains:

All fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA). The UDDA also recognizes whole-brain death — irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain — as a legal standard of death. A person can be legally dead even if her cardiopulmonary system continues to function. If a patient’s entire brain is nonfunctioning, so that breathing and heartbeat are maintained only by artificial means, that patient meets the whole-brain standard of death.

Members of McMath’s family refuse to accept her death and are currently seeking doctors to perform operations on the child’s corpse in order to have it transferred to a different facility. The doctors who treated McMath have stated that is unethical for them to do surgery on a deceased person. The family says that because of their religion, they believe that McMath is still alive; however, doctors say there is absolutely no scientific basis for this belief. Unfortunately, believing something does not make it so.

Leaving a brain-dead person hooked up to machines is unethical, and robs the person of the dignity he or she deserves. A similar situation happened in the Nelson Mandela case. Mandela was declared brain dead with total organ failure in June of 2013, yet his family insisted on keeping him hooked up to machines that kept his heart beating and his lungs breathing. To put an icon like Mandela through such an undignified and prolonged death was unconscionable.

Now, Terry Schiavo’s family has inserted themselves into the mix by calling for McMath’s staying on the machines. Terry Schiavo was a 26 year old woman who was in a permanent vegetative state after collapsing at her home. Her husband had to engage in a bitter legal battle against her family to win the right to take Schiavo off of a feeding tube.

Although many have compassion for the Jahi McMath family, it doesn’t change the fact that when a person is brain dead it means he or she is dead, period. While it is understandable that it’s hard to accept such a tragedy, especially one stemming from what is usually a minor surgery; the family’s unethical actions in prolonging the legal battle are not understandable.

Jahi McMath deserves better, and her family must accept her death and move forward. Religious beliefs are not a reason to deny McMath a proper goodbye and a peaceful transition of her body to either burial or cremation. Prolonging this case is totally unethical and does a great disservice to an innocent girl who was taken too soon but who nonetheless deserves to rest in peace.

An Editorial By: Rebecca Savastio

US Legal

Mercury News

NBC Bay Area