Human Exceptionalism

Don’t Rush to Declare Brain Death

In the wake of recent events in the Jahi McMath imbroglio, another young teenage girl was declared brain dead. 

Except she wasn’t. From the People story:

A 14-year-old girl who was shot in the head allegedly by a Michigan Uber driver and declared brain dead is clinging to life in the hospital – squeezing her mother’s hand just as surgeons were preparing to harvest her organs, authorities tell PEOPLE.

Mistakes such as this raise the suspicion that profoundly brain-injured people may be looked more as organ sources than patients, undermining the public’s trust in organ transplant procedures. 

There should be no rush to declare brain death, particularly in the young whose brains exhibit greater elasticity. 

Trust but verify. And then, verify again.

Update: The hospital has clarified the story, stating they discussed “possibility” that the girl was brain dead and, with permission, contacted the organ transplant organization.  Perhaps the term shouldn’t be used so loosely.


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