Jahi McMath: Finally Dead

Teenager Jahi McMath was declared brain dead in California in 2013, after what sounded like a botched tonsillectomy. Her mother refused to accept that the absence of measurable brain waves meant her child was dead, and claimed religious justification for finding a facility that would keep Jahi on life support indefinitely. Such a place was found in New Jersey, and after court battles, Jahi was released to her mother’s care and flown to the east coast — still under a diagnosis of brain death.

Now, after more internal bleeding due to organ failure, even Jahi’s mother agrees that the girl is dead. A wrongful death legal action will likely be filed against the California hospital.

I recognize that a human life can’t be reduced to the cost of maintaining a person declared legally brain dead, but I do wonder who has paid for expensive life support for the past five years. Jahi’s mother claimed that her child responded to her voice, but no one else found Jahi anything but inert and unresponsive. Her care must have cost a fortune.

Letting go of a loved one, especially when brain death occurs as a result of what should have been a minor operation, has to be excruciatingly difficult. But there’s more than a little ego involved in keeping an unresponsive person with no brain activity attached to a respirator just so that she’s around and visible to her grieving family. I wonder whose interests were being served over the past five years? Maybe not Jahi’s.

Nothing over the last five years gave Jahi back her life, and what’s happened since her initial surgery seems like a long, sad road.


4 thoughts on “Jahi McMath: Finally Dead

  1. It’s a tragedy. Likely the hospital that botched the tonsillectomy will pay. There was a woman in Queens that became severely brain damaged and vegetative during a cesarean birth. The anesthesiologist had put the breathing tube down the esophagus rather than the bronchus (windpipe). Her husband was distraught and slept on the floor next to her hospital bed for over a year. The hospital bought a house nearby and moved the patient, husband and baby with a caregiver into the home. The hospital paid. I heard there was also a multimillion dollar settlement. Those responsible for the botched surgery of the young woman who now has officially died will pay and pay and pay.

  2. for Katie: I’m sure you’ve had to deal with these moments when the patient is declared dead and the family doesn’t want to accept that. I think what happened to this child is a tragedy, but I also think there’s something slightly kinky about buying pink pajamas and painting the fingernails and braiding the hair of a body declared dead — and doing it for five years.

  3. for Katie: Must be very hard on everyone, including hospital staff who have to care for the patient.

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