Brain Dead—Using medical technology is easy–turning it off is a Mom’s nightmare

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2014 | Uncategorized

It has become an anguished fight over the fate of a 13-year-old girl who, though pronounced legally dead by doctors, remains alive in the opinion of her religious parents. The girl, Jahi McMath, was declared brain-dead after complications from surgery on Dec. 9 at Children’s Hospital Oakland, which wanted to remove her from a ventilator. But her heart continues to beat, and her family protested the removal in court, so she has remained connected to the machine.
Nailah Winkfield, the girl’s mother, said she was hopeful that Friday’s agreement would facilitate her daughter’s move.”I believe in God, and I believe that if he wanted her dead, he would have taken her already,” Ms. Winkfield, a Baptist, said by phone. “Her heart is beating, her blood is flowing. She moves when I go near her and talk to her. That’s not a dead person.”
The hospital determined two days later that the girl was legally dead, and later sought to remove the ventilator. The family objected, asserting that the heartbeat was proof that she remained alive. In a document filed in Federal Court, the family’s lawyer stated that the girl’s parents are “Christians with firm religious beliefs that as long as the heart is beating, Jahi is alive.”Doctors who have examined the girl, including a court-appointed neurologist, have all declared her brain-dead.
Under the agreement reached Friday, the hospital will release the girl to the Alameda County coroner, a move that will officially classify the girl as dead, before the family can transfer Jahi elsewhere.
The agreement does not require the hospital to perform the procedures that will help the girl’s heart to keep beating during the transfer, or to allow an outside doctor to carry them out on hospital premises, as Mr. Dolan had requested.
Lt. Riddic Bowers of the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau said that once the bureau issued a death certificate and a release form, a deceased person’s relatives were free to dispose of the body according to their wishes.David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, said it was unlikely that a long-term care facility would accept a patient who has been issued a death certificate.”There’s no reported case of a correct diagnosis of brain death where anybody comes back,” he said. He added that while death occurs after an hour because of a lack of blood flowing into the brain, Jahi has not had blood flowing into her brain since at least Dec. 12.
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