The Corner

Court to Allow Proof Jahi McMath Alive

Jahi McMath may not be dead.

Jahi is (was?) the teenager who had a catastrophic bleeding event after throat surgery and was later declared brain dead.

Her parents fought the claim and a court settlement was reached wherein the State of California issued a death certificate and her body–on a respirator–was released to her parents.

Since then, she has been in New Jersey. 

I wrote at the time that I thought Jahi was dead.  But doctors who have examined her in New Jersey have written declarations stating that her condition no longer fits the criteria of brain death.  

I believed that was sufficient cause to allow her mother to prove the case in court.  California courts agree. From the East Bay Times story:

Jahi McMath’s family cleared another important hurdle in its legal battle when a state appellate court ruled that the child’s mother could try to prove the girl is alive. In a brief First Appellate Court ruling Tuesday, the court denied appeals by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and Dr. Frederick Rosen that claimed Jahi was declared legally dead in January 2014 and therefore should be recognized as deceased in the civil trial. 

The idea that a person who respected doctors say is alive should have to remain dead because a death certificate was issued is ludicrous on its face.

If Jahi is alive, either the earlier death determination was mistaken or–and this would be huge–something never seen before in this field will have happened, a brain dead person recovering sufficient brain function to be deemed again alive.

If Jahi lives, it will send shock waves through the medical, scientific, and organ transplant communities. (And, not coincidentally, the malpractice case will become HUGE.)

But that’s tough. Our duty to Jahi, the integrity of the system, and the needs of scientific understanding require that the truth will out.

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