Human Exceptionalism

Jahi Attorney Speaks

Readers of this web log know I covered the Jahi McMath tragedy extensively. As I wrote, I believe she is deceased. But I have not criticized her family, and indeed have great admiration for their attorney, Christopher Dolan.

Dolan’s job was not to represent the societal consensus. It was not to be popular. Rather, it was to strive to accomplish the legal goals of his clients–which he succeeded at doing in a judge-brokered settlement.

Now, Dolan has taken to the pages of the LA Times to defend his clients. From, “Jahi’s Family Aren’t Fools:”

It has been amazing to see how many people think they have a right to an opinion about this child, this mother, this family and the issues in this case. Self-righteous commenters and commentators who have no firsthand knowledge of the facts or the people involved pretend they can somehow know not only what’s best for Jahi but what’s best for society in such situations. They take it upon themselves to proclaim what will relieve or prolong the family’s suffering, what will desecrate Jahi or honor her, and they feel justified in sharing it with the world in mean-spirited terms.

Well, it is a very public case, and a judge made a very clear legal ruling. People are entitled to both opinion and comment.

But mean spirited invective is unwarranted–from both sides of the controversy. Too often we castigate instead of comment. “Civilians,” like the McMaths should be given a special break. They are not professional public policy advocates. They were just desperate to save Jahi.

Nolan makes an abortion analogy:

Those who attack Nailah’s decision and who are “pro-choice” on the issue of abortion should think hard about the fallout from their insistence that the family’s personal and private decision about when life ends can and should be overridden by doctors or the state. The same rights that support the choice made by Nailah also support contraceptive rights and abortion rights.

I think pro-lifers would say he should learn from the analogy, that the unborn child is the living human threatened with termination, with no ability of others to defend him or her. Nolan, at least, was able to obtain relief (despite Jahi being ruled deceased).

Dolan expresses great admiration for his clients:

Jahi McMath’s family are brave, loving, honorable hardworking people. They are not fools. They know the odds. They want time, free from the threats of the hospital to pull the plug. They want Jahi to be somewhere where people care for her and do not call her “the body.”

I would hope that is an opinion with which everyone can empathize.

The family are not villains. Neither is Dolan. But neither are those who agree with the law that properly determined brain dead is deceased.