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False Media Religious Narrative Strikes Again

The media often report “culture war” public controversies as fights over religion rather than rational debates over what is proper public policy.

A few examples include the ongoing struggle over legalizing assisted suicide, the embryonic stem cell and human cloning debates, and the Terri Schiavo case.

Now, in the Daily Beast, columnist Ann Neumann does it again column in a piece about ongoing controversy over Jahi McMath, declared brain dead more than two years ago in California.  

For example, in recounting the Terri Schiavo controversy, Neumann writes that Terri’s family “considered her severely disabled” because they are “devout Catholics.”

No. Terri’s objective medical condition was one of profound disability. The Schindlers’ Catholicism had nothing to do with that categorization.

Neumann similarly conjures a religious argument in the Jahi case, which is boiling over again in California as the family is going to be allowed, apparently, to present evidence that she isn’t really dead.

Neumann notes that New Jersey allows a religious exemption to a declaration of brain death, which is where Jahi is now.

That’s an interesting aspect of the story, but it is irrelevant to the current controversy in California, which has no such exemption.

Here’s as close as Neumann gets to describing what is happening in that case:

If the Jahi case results in California rescinding the girl’s death certificate, we may see a broader political push for religious exemptions from certain kinds of deaths. The ramifications are hard to predict. In January, a California judge issued a tentative ruling that allows Jahi’s family the chance to prove that she is alive.

First, as the President’s Council on Bioethics opined, there are not “different kinds” of death, but two different methods–total irreversible brain failure and irreversible cardio/pulmonary failure–for declaring that the one kind of death that we all will experience has occurred.

More to the point of this post, the California action is not based on religion! It is predicated on declarations from reputable doctors that Jahi no longer exhibits all of the clinical criteria required for a declaration of death (e.g.., the complete cessation of all activity in the brain and all of its constituent parts.)

The burden of proof in this regard is on her mother, and I suspect that will be a tough road to travel.  

But whatever happens in Jahi’s case going forward in California, it will be based on medical science. Religion will have nothing to do with it. 


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