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.