The following comes from a January 6 posting from Dana Cody, director of Life Legal Defense Foundation.
Imagine your child undergoes surgery and never regains consciousness. Imagine that just before surgery, your child told you “I’m scared, Mommy. I’m afraid I will never wake up.”
Jahi McMath’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, lives with that statement echoing in her head every day. She wishes she had listened to her daughter when Jahi expressed her fear before undergoing a tonsillectomy at Children’s Hospital in Oakland on December 9. Jahi regained consciousness and appeared to be recovering well shortly after the surgery but suddenly began bleeding profusely, triggering cardiac arrest. Although Jahi was revived and placed on a respirator, hospital personnel declared her “brain dead” on December 12 and informed her family they would be stopping all life-sustaining treatment.
Day by day news stories recounted the legal battle between Mrs. Winkfield, represented by attorney Chris Dolan, and Children’s Hospital, whose representatives had been slow to recognize that Jahi was in danger after her tonsillectomy, but were quick to tell her parents that Jahi was “dead, dead, dead.” Behind the scenes, a team of lawyers, doctors, and advocates was working to see that Jahi could be transported to a facility that will treat her with the dignity and care she deserves. For Jahi to be moved, a court order was needed to perform a procedure known as a tracheostomy, the insertion of a breathing tube that would ensure the flow of oxygen to her lungs while she was transported to a facility that would care for her as a human being, not as a deteriorating “corpse” as hospital representatives described her.
The already complex issues of whether brain death is really death and how reliable a diagnosis of brain death is has yet another complicating factor in Jahi’s case: money.
Under California law, non-economic damages are capped at $250,000 for any negligence on the part of the hospital that results in loss of life. The apparent conflict presented to the hospital in Jahi’s case is this: should she live, the hospital would pay $250,000 in non-economic damages, plus the expense of ongoing care. By making the case that brain death equals the death of a human being, the hospital caps their non-economic liability at $250,000 versus that same amount plus the millions of dollars that could be needed to care for and rehabilitate Jahi over her lifetime.
Obviously the worth of Jahi to her mother cannot be described in terms of money. In an open letter to BET.com, she wrote:
She is on a respirator—with air she lives, her heart beats, her kidneys produce urine, she is warm and soft. They have been pressuring me to “pull the plug.” I can’t. I won’t. I can’t let them kill my baby a second time.
Ms. Winkfield’s comments about her daughter demonstrate what was stated in a publication by Dr. Paul Byrne years before he was a member of the team working to save Jahi’s life. Dr. Byrne is a neonatologist and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics.
The intrinsic worth of a human being is not in his/her brain or other bodily part but in the whole person, an organism with spiritual and material dimensions united. Death signifies the separation of this unity, which unity is served by the intercooperation of at least three vital systems—the circulatory and respiratory systems, and the entire brain. Therefore, when making a diagnosis of death, it is imperative that no one be determined or declared dead unless and until there is destruction of at least these three basic unifying systems.2
This bears repetition: “It is imperative that no one be determined or declared dead unless and until there is destruction of at least these three basic unifying systems.” Jahi’s heart is beating, her kidneys are functioning, and her body has warmth. It isn’t surprising to know that as this was being written, Dr. Byrne had recently examined Jahi, and as reported in court documents, her arms and legs were moving in response to her grandmother’s voice. He further stated “Jahi is a living person. . . .” Jahi’s mother says it best: “She is warm now. I want my baby to be warm. We need time.”
Ms. Winkfield’s prayer for more time was answered. For the third time, the parties were in court on January 3, 2014 to discuss matters related to moving Jahi to a facility where she will receive the care needed to give her a chance at full recovery. At that hearing Oakland Children’s Hospital finally agreed to a protocol to remove Jahi from their facility, which move took place on January 5. Jahi is now at an undisclosed location in order to protect her privacy and the privacy of other patients at the facility. Attorney Chris Dolan stated that Jahi’s family understands “the odds are stacked against them.” However, Jahi is now stable and receiving proper care in an environment that is not hostile, where she is not being referred to as a “corpse” and where there is not constant pressure to end her life. Noteworthy is the fact that many patients have recovered from a diagnosis of brain death. Should Jahi be one of those individuals who wakes up after being declared brain dead it will be interesting to hear Children’s Hospital’s response….
Life Legal Defense Foundation offers continuing legal education training for attorneys interested in assisting with the issue of forced death. LLDF’s most recent in-person training was in Jacksonville, Fla., February 20, 2014. If you are interested in sponsoring a continuing legal education in your state, please contact LLDF (707) 224-6675.
To read the entire posting, click here.
My heart goes out to that poor girl and her family. God bless them.
She is alive. She is a human being. She is a child of God. Prayers and love to her family who stand united and strong against the evil in the world. God will decide when He will take Jahi.
This is a very sad and tragic story. But I think there are serious questions about whether this girl is indeed alive, whether Catholic teaching requires or even permits the kind of extraordinary measures being used for her, and the definition of life posited in this story. As I understand it, she has no higher brain function at all. It is completely gone, which makes me sad just writing it. Until the last couple of decades, she would not be put through this indignity, but would be allowed to die peacefully and with her dignity intact.
YFC, how dare YOU say that Jahi is being put through “indignity” (by her mother)! The “indignity” that was done to Jahi, apart from the apparent medical malpractice, was doctors labeling her as “dead” so that the negligent hospital would at worst only have had to pay out no more than $250,000 in damages.
We need to understand that a hospital whose doctors and nurses who are negligent, are protected from financial responsibility through the brain “death” diagnosis. If Jahi had been buried, at worst the hospital would have had to pay out $250,000 in damages to the family. I applaud Jahi’s mother. She could have let the fear of insufficient funds force her into doing as the hospital demanded, which was to remove Jahi from the ventilator, let her die, and bury her.
We could use more courageous families like Jahi’s to put a stop to this abuse in our “health care” system.
By the way, Jahi and her family is not Catholic.
Tracy, I am very surprised at you comment as there is no ‘indignity’ or ‘abuse’ involved in the situation. The simple fact is that her organs are being ‘artificiality’ kept alive. Why is it so hard for you to accept this fact. Do some research and discover the facts.
Ryan, read my statement again. I did find ‘indignity’ and ‘abuse’ in this situation. The abuse is clearly on the part of the doctors and administrators of Children’s hospital in Oakland.
Jahi is a human being, not “organs”.
Please pray the Angelus and consider that when the WORD was made FLESH and DWELT AMONG US, Jesus did not yet have a brain or heart or any other organs for that matter! No zygote has organs, yet a scientist can still determine between a living zygote and a dead zygote (if it is sadly in a petri dish).
You know nothing. Her brain IS functioning–she has normal bodily functions. If her brain was “dead” her body would be “dead”. God gives and takes life–never man–otherwise it’s called MURDER.
Check the medical facts & look up the word ‘ artificiality. A machine is keeping her alive not the function of her brain which no longer functions. Yes, this is tragic, but it happened and it should stop now!!
Ryan, a dialysis machine ‘artificially’ removes wastes from the body of those who do not have functioning kidneys (i.e. organs). Many people would be dead today were it not for that amazing machine. Are those people also dead? Should dialysis be stopped now?!
Whether she is with her family here on Earth or with God in Heaven, we should pray for her.
agreed, of course, C&H, thanks for your post.
C & H and YFC, please pray the Angelus daily.
Here is a much more recent update on Jahi than this article written on January 6. It comes from an April 1, 2014 story published on LifeNews.com. https://www.lifenews.com/2014/04/01/jahi-mcmaths-mother-convinced-she-will-have-a-recovery/
Here is a quote from Jahi’s mother; “No matter how many times you position her to the right or in the middle, she always ends up on the left side,” Winfield said. “She will reposition herself over and over if she is uncomfortable.”
One can only pray for this child and family and hope for the best. Very sad situation. It seems much like the Terri Shiavo case. God rest Terri’s soul and help Jahi.