Earlier this month, a young girl by the name of Jahi McMath went to have her tonsils removed and is now currently brain dead due to the surgery. She is currently on life support and her family is fighting to move Jahi to another hospital.
(CNN)The way we talk about neurological death has created a misperception, ethicists say: that “brain death” is somehow not as final as cardiac death, even though, by definition, it is.
The term “life support” exacerbates the problem, too, because those who are brain dead do not have a life to sustain, said Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. This seems to be a fundamental problem in the case that have entered the national spotlight, he said.
Doctors in Oakland, California, declared Jahi McMath, 13, to be brain dead on December 12, three days after she underwent surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and extra sinus tissue, which doctors thought were causing sleep apnea.
A judge concluded Tuesday that Jahi is brain dead, but ruled that Jahi will remain on life support at least until December 30. The family of the teen is seeking to move her to another facility for treatment, the girl’s uncle, Omari Sealy, told reporters Thursday.
Moving her would require the insertion of tracheostomy and gastrostomy tubes, family attorney Christopher Dolan said.
However, hospital Chief of Pediatrics David Durand said the judge didn’t authorize a transfer to another facility.
“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice. Children’s Hospital Oakland continues to extend its wishes for peace and closure to Jahi McMath’s family,” Durand said.
But Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, said on Friday,
“I would probably need for my child’s heart to stop to show me that she was dead. Her heart is still beating, so there’s still life there.”