Multiple neurologists confirmed that Jahi was unable to breathe without a ventilator, had no blood flow to her brain, and had no sign of electrical activity. She was declared legally dead on December 12, 2013.
Jahi’s body has been released to her family and has been transported via private ambulance to an unnamed extended care facility with her mother, where she will was given a tracheostomy and a feeding tube, according to her uncle, Omari Sealey and the family’s lawyer. Her family holds on to hope that she will recover, despite lacking any brain activity that would allow her to breathe on her own.
The Long Island, NY extended care facility, the New Beginnings Community Center was among dozens that offered to care for the child, but it is not clear whether or not they accepted the offer. Sealey said that the family has received threats of violence since McMath’s story became public. He also said that exams performed on Jahi have left some doctors “feeling like she is not gone completely.”
Bioethics experts, California law officials, and the Alameda Country coroner’s office have recently answered some questions applicable to Jahi’s condition, regarding the nature of brain death.
There are two legal definitions of death. The first being “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.” The other is “irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions.” A Harvard Medical School committee put these standards forth in 1968. Another presidential council who stated, “Whole brain death is legal death” reaffirmed this in 2008.
Whole brain death is not reversible. Medical professionals have made occasional misdiagnosis, which is why the law now requires two separate neurological exams to confirm the presence of legal death. When these tests clearly state that there is no blood flowing to the brain, as is the case with Jahi McMath, the chance of reversal is impossible. The autopsies performed in similar cases show that in instances where brain cells are left without oxygen the brain will eventually liquefy.
In cases of brain death, California law states that the family does not have the right to determine when the ventilator is to be unplugged. They are, however, to be granted a reasonably brief period of accommodation in which to gather family or next of kin. During this period a hospital is required only to continue previously ordered cardiopulmonary support. No other medical intervention is required, according to California Health and Safety Code 1254.4.
The legal requirements to take possession of a body include possession of a death certificate and a “disposition permit,” which in Jahi’s case was issued by the Alameda County Vital Records. These permits are issued after the family explains satisfactorily what they plan to do with the body. In most cases, the Coroner’s Bureau releases bodies to funeral homes and not to a family.
The Children’s Hospital in Oakland maintains that McMath’s brain death was “tragic but irreversible.” State health and hospital officials have joined forces to investigate circumstances surrounding how a routine procedure ended in such calamity.
Jahi’s body was released to her family and transported via private ambulance to an unnamed extended care facility with her mother. According to the family’s lawyer and other professionals Jahi’s body has continued to deteriorate.
By Apryl Legeas