Opinion by Patricia L Johnson
Jahi McMath is the 13-year-old girl declared brain-dead by Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA after the teenager suffered complications after surgery. Jahi’s surgery was performed on December 9, 2013, she was placed on life support on December 10, 2013 and declared brain-dead on December 11, 2013.
Although the family states Jahi was admitted for a ‘routine tonsillectomy’ court records indicate there were actually three procedures performed on this child, in hopes of helping her with sleep apnea, weight gain and other health issues.
Jahi survived the complicated surgerird she later began bleeding from the mouth and nose, lost a tremendous amount of blood which led to heart problems and the subsequent loss of oxygen caused her brain-death.
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines death as follows:
1. The cessation of life. In lower multicellular organisms, death is a gradual process at the cellular level, because tissues vary in their ability to withstand deprivation of oxygen; in higher organisms, a cessation of integrated tissue and organ functions; in humans, manifested by the loss of heartbeat, by the absence of spontaneous breathing, and by cerebral death.
Pasted from <http://www.medilexicon.com/medicaldictionary.php?t=22946>
Definitions for cerebral death contain the following constants: “permanent loss of cerebral and brainstem function, manifested by absence of responsiveness to external stimuli, absence of cephalic reflexes, and apnea”.
An EEG (electroencephalogram) is valuable in confirming brain death. If a flat EEG reading is received at time of death and a second flat reading 24 hours later, the person is declared dead.
Jahi had been declared dead by at least three different medical doctors, Dr. Shanahan on Decemb er 11, 2013, Dr. Heidersbach on December 12, 2013 and more recently by Dr. Paul Fisher, Chief of Child Neurology for Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Fisher was appointed by the Superior Court as their ‘expert’ to complete an independent evaluation of Jahi McMath. Dr. Fisher testified that not only was McMath ‘dead’, her brain had not received any oxygen for well over two weeks.
Christopher Dolan is the attorney for Latasha Winkfield, the mother of Jahi McMath. Dolan is the owner of the Dolan Law Firm which consists of 15 plus attorneys specializing in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
Dolan’s law firm has been searching for a place for Jahi and on December 29, 2013 Allyson Scerri, President and Founder of the New Beginnings Community Center in New York, sent a letter to Attorney Dolan stating their new inpatient facility, Brendan House, would accept McMath as a patient and provide 24/7 care. Unfortunately, the inpatient facility, Brendan House, is still in the building process and incomplete so who knows when this transfer could actually be made. Just the cost for the 5.3 hour air ambulance from CA to LI, NY is well over $30,000.00. Costs are important in potential lawsuits due to the fact awards for damages are based on total medical expenditures, in addition to other criteria.
Based in part on the letter from New Beginnings, Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo approved an injunction filed by the Dolan’s law firm allowing Jahi to be kept on her current life support until 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 7, 2014. A federal court hearing will be held, on Monday, January 6, so it’s possible the injunction will be extended.
While all the lawyer games are being played in the daily news by the only folks who will probably ultimately benefit from this child’s brain death, who is paying the bills for the immediate care of Jahi McMath?
Should anyone have to pay medical bills, after a certain period of time, for a person that has been declared “dead” by a minimum of three different physicians?
Believe me, my heart goes out to the family of this youngster because I’ve been there, my mother was diagnosed as brain-dead, but I also wonder what the situation would be like in this instance if the legal eagles were not involved in the decisions.
One of the arguments Dolan is making is Latasha Winkfield is a ‘Christian’ with firm religious beliefs that as long as the heart is beating the child is alive. To that I say horse feathers, remove her from her sustaining life support and let’s see how long her heart beats on its own.
If there wasn’t a prestigious law firm involved I might look at this entire issue in a different light, but right now my thoughts are with those individuals that could actually benefit from Jahi McMath’s death in the form of organ transplants. Dead people don’t have rights that I’m aware of, but those still living and waiting for transplants should.
There is nothing that is going to bring Jahi back to life – she is brain-dead and by legal definition brain-death is ‘dead’.
© 2014 Patricia L Johnson
p.s. Sometime during the darkness of night Jahi’s body was removed from Children’s Hospital by her mother. Jahi was still on life support equipment, but a feeding tube had not been inserted. At time of publication, the location where Jahi’s body will be taken had not been announced, but New Beginnings did acknowledge their facility is still a possibility. What sort of country have we become where controls aren’t in place and a parent can drag, what essentially is a corpse, from one location to another.