Should Federal Court Order Jahi Fed?

A federal judge has been asked to order Children’s Hospital Oakland to insert a feeding tube into Jahi McMath’s stomach so she can receive adequate nutrition. From the San Francisco Chronicle story:

Christopher Dolan, attorney for Jahi’s family, has filed requests in three separate courts seeking orders to force the hospital to insert tracheostomy and feeding tubes, but judges have declined to do so.

In papers filed in federal court Thursday, Dolan again asked for an order for the tubes to be inserted. “At this point, Jahi has not had nutrition for nearly three weeks,” he wrote. “She is in desperate need of a tracheostomy tube and a gastric tube. This court should grant plaintiff the relief to allow for Jahi’s transport.”

I don’t see how the judge can do that. A state court has already ruled that Jahi has passed away. There is no basis in law for requiring a deceased person’s body to be nourished. 

I doubt a federal judge would hold an evidentiary hearing on that question. (Recall, it took emergency passage of a federal law to obtain federal court review of the Terri Schiavo situation.) I think that would have to occur for the “perform surgery” order to be made.

Jahi’s body must be receiving some form of IV support or her body would have ceased functioning by now. Details about this have not been published to my knowledge. She would almost certainly need a feeding tube for long-term maintenance.

The hospital claims it will cooperate in transferring Jahi, although it will not permit the procedures done on site:

The hospital would arrange for Jahi to be moved to another site for the procedure, or for long-term care, but has not heard from any facility, doctor or medical transport service regarding her case, hospital spokesman Sam Singer said.

This case is very unusual. The bodies of people declared brain dead are maintained for a very short period of time to allow organ donation. Or, they have life support terminated because death has occurred. 

Most bodies of brain dead people deteriorate relatively quickly regardless of support. There is no indication that that has happened to Jahi.

There are a few cases of people declared brain dead, whose bodies have been maintained for many years. Dr. Alan Shewmon believes these cases disproves the concept. Others say, these people may not actually be brain dead. 

These bodies/people–depending on your POV–do receive and process nutrients provided through feeding tubes. But, I don’t believe any of the cases that Shewmon cites involved coercion of doctors to perform the necessary surgical procedures.

Meanwhile, the sides are supposed to talk settlement in federal and state courts. Unless one side shifts from its basic position, I don’t see how a settlement is possible.

More as developments unfold.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Science & Tech

Set NASA Free

The Trump administration has proposed shifting the International Space Station from a NASA-exclusive research facility to a semi-public, semi-private one. Its plan would nix all government funding for the ISS by 2025 and award at least $150 million per year to NASA to help with the transition. This would be a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More