Thursday, December 26, 2013
The legal dispute over whether to disconnect 13-year-old Jahi McMath from life support illustrates the highly sensitive and controversial nature of brain death.
A court-appointed physician recently concurred with a prior finding that the teenager, who suffered cardiac arrest during a tonsil surgery, is brain dead. The court allowed the family to keep her on life support so they could spend one last Christmas with her, but it’s highly unlikely the court will continue to order the hospital and insurance company to foot the bill for this pricey medical intervention.
The California statute on brain death is unambiguous. Once an outside physician confirms brain death, the person is dead and not entitled to further medical intervention. Despite the wishes of Jahi’s family, the statute is highly likely to prevail in this case.
See Gloria Goodale, Jahi McMath: Where the Law Stands When Hospitals and Families Disagree, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 24, 2013.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.