Human Exceptionalism

Making Sure Jahi Stays Dead?

I accept properly diagnosed brain death as dead.  Hence, when three doctors found that Jahi McMath was tragically gone, I accepted the diagnosis. 

But I also wrote that if her body did not deteriorate–as happens in almost all brain death cases–that would raise my eyebrows.  Now, it’s one year later, and she remains here. My eyebrows are now above my receding hairline.

Moreover, I am increasingly suspicious of the seeming ideological commitment of some to making sure she stays dead. The intensity of their resistance to even the possibility that a mistake has been made–or that we can learn something new about the elasticity of the brain–reminds me of the emotional intensity of those who wanted Terri Schiavo dehydrated to death.

I bring this up because I suspect that the case will return to court sometime soon. Also, I think it is important to keep certain facts straight and point out media bias/ignorance when it rears its ugly head–sometimes, it is hard to tell which. 

Let’s look at a Q & A format AP story about the sad anniversary and straighten things out a bit:

Q: Why does her family want to keep her on a ventilator?

A: Jahi’s relatives say their religious beliefs dictate that as long as her heart is beating, Jahi is alive and deserves long-term care. In October, the family released videos of the girl showing her foot and hand appearing to move in response to her mother’s commands.

In other words, they think she’s alive–not because “their religious beliefs dictate” anything. Plus, if she did comply with requests, she’s not brain dead by definition.

But look at what the story completely fails to report: Two very respected neurologists have testified via sworn declarations that she is not now brain dead. This is the most important evidence presented that she may not actually be dead. How could the reporter fail to even mention that?

Then, there is a bit of confusing verbiage:

David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, has said there is no evidence that patients who are brain dead can ever recover. Still, he said that it’s somewhat surprising her body has lasted as long as it has and that some patients can live for years on ventilators.

Well, it’s very rare–but occasionally happens–for a truly brain dead body to be maintained. More to the point, a truly brain dead does not “live” on a ventilator. 

The unprecedented nature of a brain dead person recovering function–which may have happened with Jahi–makes this a very important case. If she has come back, that opens a whole new area of scientific inquiry. From that perspective alone, why fight taking a thorough new look to see if it happened?  

I strongly believe this case needs to be reopened–for Jahi, for her family, for the integrity of the system, and for the good of science.

The harder the “establishment” resists, the more I think their objections are ideological, reflecting deep concerns about how a finding that she is alive would rock their world. 

They are right: It would. But that’s no reason to force her to remain among the dead if that is not where she belongs. 

 

Most Popular

The League of Morons

Let’s look back at the two and a half years when the greatest country on earth went crazy. What was that all about? How did it happen? How could so much have happened based on so little? Did we learn anything? It’ll take a keenly observant artist to put it all in perspective. Fortunately two artists have ... Read More

The League of Morons

Let’s look back at the two and a half years when the greatest country on earth went crazy. What was that all about? How did it happen? How could so much have happened based on so little? Did we learn anything? It’ll take a keenly observant artist to put it all in perspective. Fortunately two artists have ... Read More
Elections

Biden’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge

Biden is pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. As I note in my Bloomberg Opinion column, Democratic proposals to increase income taxes keep getting narrower in scope. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on households making more than ... Read More
Elections

Biden’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge

Biden is pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. As I note in my Bloomberg Opinion column, Democratic proposals to increase income taxes keep getting narrower in scope. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on households making more than ... Read More
Education

Science, Coronavirus, and Notre Dame

A few weeks back, the University of Notre Dame outlined its plan for reopening campus in the fall, detailing the way in which the administration hopes to bring students back to South Bend to resume in-person classes. Like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the U.S., Notre Dame shifted all ... Read More
Education

Science, Coronavirus, and Notre Dame

A few weeks back, the University of Notre Dame outlined its plan for reopening campus in the fall, detailing the way in which the administration hopes to bring students back to South Bend to resume in-person classes. Like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the U.S., Notre Dame shifted all ... Read More

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to ... Read More

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More