Human Exceptionalism

Jahi McMath Mother Owes No Apology

The Jahi McMath tragedy remains ongoing as she continues to be maintained on a ventilator. Her mother has claimed her physical state has improved, but we need not get into that here.

Many in bioethics criticized Jahi’s mother for standing up for her daughter. Now, she has defended herself. From the LA Times story:

In a letter posted to Facebook, Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, referred to her critics, saying they helped make her daughter’s experience relevant to people all over the world. “I also want to thank those who felt the need to go public with their opinions about me and my daughter, positive and even negative,” Winkfield wrote. “It is because of you that my daughter’s experience is so relevant and that people all over the world know who Jahi Mcmath is.”

Medical experts and ethicists have criticized the decision to keep Jahi on a ventilator, saying there is absolutely no chance of recovering from brain death. Bioethics experts also took issue with news media coverage that often repeated family assertions that the girl was alive, saying it clouded an issue the public already has difficulty grasping.

Jahi’s mother owes no one an apology.  While I believe that properly determined brain death is dead–and so stated about Jahi’s situation–that doesn’t mean a parent shouldn’t defend her child to the best of her ability.

I also think the judge in this case did a splendid job of balancing the needs of Children’s Hospital to maintain their ethics and the desperate desire of a family to give their baby every possible chance.

Note the cost has been at the family’s own–or contributors’–expense. (For more on my views about the case, see here.)

Jahi’s body has apparently not gone into decline as almost always happens in brain dead cases. It’s too soon for eyebrows to be raised. But if she actually does improve, there will be hell to pay because it will mean she isn’t really dead. 

No judgment now. Let’s see how this plays out. But let’s not castigate a mother for loving her daughter enough to take on the Medical Establishment. 

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