The following opinion piece by Dr. Paul Byrne; Bishop Rene Henry Gracida; Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi; Father Elias Mary Mills, FI; and Christine M. Zanier, M.D. appeared on Renew America Mar. 18.
[The following Response to “Jahi McMath and Determining Death,” Ethics and Medics 39(3) March 2014, was submitted to National Catholic Bioethics Center for publication, which was denied. Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl, is living and needs physicians, theologians, lawyers and others to stand up for her. This is about protecting Jahi and everyone, not only Catholics, but the bioethics center has done nothing to protect or support Jahi, or anyone else in a similar condition.]
Dead is dead – except when it isn’t. The National Catholic Bioethics Center ethicists have claimed repeatedly that Jahi McMath is dead. Yet Jahi continues to live. Jahi is Jahi, not a dead body receiving treatment, care and love. Jahi can be called a corpse, but she is not a corpse; she is a living human being.
Prior to the desire to get beating hearts and other healthy vital organs for transplantation, physicians cautiously determined death in order not to treat the living as dead. Then illegal and immoral heart transplantation began. To make it legal, in 1968, a committee at Harvard concocted the first set of “brain death” criteria (not based on scientific investigation) known as the Harvard Criteria. During the next 10 years, 30 disparate sets of criteria were published, each one tending to be less stringent. Recent publications state that there is no consensus about which set to use (Neurology Jan. 2010) and brain related criteria are not evidence based (Neurology July 2010). A person can be declared dead by one set of criteria, but be alive by other sets.
The National Catholic Bioethics Centre ethicists refer to an address by Pope John Paul II in which he stated that the “criterion . . . does not seem to conflict with essential elements of sound anthropology.” Use of “seem” indicates that there very likely were some unanswered questions. Pope John Paul II later wrote, “Each human being, in fact, is alive precisely insofar as he or she is corpore et anima unus (Gaudium et Spes, 14), and he or she remains so for as long as this substantial unity-in-totality subsists. In the light of this anthropological truth, it is clear, as I have already had occasion to observe, that ‘the death of the person, understood in this primary sense, is an event which no scientific technique or empirical method can identify directly.'” (Address of 29 August 2000, 4, in: AAS 92 , 824)
Does the declaration of death in accord with the legal “accepted medical standards” make Jahi truly dead? The bioethics center ethicists have access to court records indicating that Jahi’s heart is beating and she has normal blood pressure, temperature and respiration, albeit supported by a ventilator. Does every ethicist agree that Jahi is no longer corpore et anima unus? If they say that Jahi’s soul is not in unus – united with her body – then whose soul or what kind of soul is animating Jahi, that is, activating her beating heart and bodily functions?
The ventilator pushes air into Jahi; the living Jahi pushes the air out. Respiration occurs in Jahi’s healthy lungs because Jahi is living. A ventilator can push air into a corpse but it does not come out. The ventilator is effective only in a living person….
To read the entire piece, click here.
It is time for Pope Francis to come to the United States and speak for those who have been declared the neo-Untermensch—the unborn and people like Jahi.
I am on my knees to thank God for men like Dr. Paul Byrne and attorney Chris Dolan.
Jahi McMath’s family will be honored at the Teri Schiavo Foundation Award night in Philadelphia this week. Every child should have a mother and uncle like Jahi has.
Raymond Arroyo should ask Father Tad (one of the professional ethicists at the National Catholic Bioethics Center) about this the next time he has him on his “World Over” show on EWTN.
Mr. Arroyo is probably too busy covering things like the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Lost Angels) REC to ask Fr. Tad such a question!
May God have mercy on an amoral Amerika!
Viva Cristo Rey!
Yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Thank you CCD for keeping Jahi’s story alive. It saddens me that many otherwise pro-life organization continue to support the so called brain “dead” diagnosis and encourage the harvesting of brain injured individual’s organs precisely because of the current stance of the National Catholic Bioethics Centre.
Dead is dead
may, you are so correct, dead IS dead! And ALIVE IS NOT DEAD!
Here is an TV interview update as of March 28, 2014: https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Mother-of-Brain-Dead-California-Girl-Speaks-Publicly-252650961.html
There has been no independent verification of Jahi’s condition, outside of family members, since her body left Children’s Hospital. If indeed the child were in such remarkable shape wouldn’t the attending physicians be submitting this astounding miracle to a peer reviewed medical journal?
Dr. Byrne displays a surprising lack of medical knowledge for a doctor. He doesn’t even grasp the concept of respiration claiming that it takes conscious effort to exhale. Yes, it does require a conscious effort to hold one’s breath in but lacking such effort a lung forcefully filled with air will simply deflate, like a balloon, once the inflow stops.
This essay didn’t pass muster with The National Catholic Bioethics Center for a very good reason. It’s just a highly biased opinion piece reflecting the views of its authors and bears no credible evidence to justify its assertions. The glaring inaccuracy regarding the description of how respiration works would be reason alone to negate its premise.
May 17, 2014, trying to find a current update of Jahi’s condition. It’s true that a respirator keeps the body taking in air, while the body’s lungs just deflate in between “breaths.” Sorry. Am wondering when the next pop-up by the mother will be, telling us she’s “so much better!”
No update for two months. What is her status currently? It would be better to get an objective update made by someone outside the family, would it not?