As in the case of Terri Schiavo, people with severe brain injuries are treated like second class citizens, often being denied the treatment, care, and love that their humanity demands
Ever since, Jahi’s family has been locked in a battle of attrition with Oakland Children’s: The hospital says she’s dead; her family says she’s severely brain-injured.
Oakland Children’s position is brutally cold: Because Jahi has been declared brain-dead, she is therefore completely dead, only staying warm via the life-giving oxygen being pumped into her system by a mechanical ventilator. The hospital leadership has taken every opportunity to make clear that they are following California's legal definition of brain death to the letter. For the hospital, Jahi is a hollow mass of flesh devoid of meaning; the administration has refused to refer to her as a child of a loving family. Instead, they have said that she is a “dead body” and a “deceased person.” Hospital spokesman Sam Singer rubbed even more salt into the wound, noting that “no amount of hope, prayer, or medical procedures will bring her back.”
The hard-nosed corporate line is very simple: Jahi is a mere shell, bereft of humanity, and using up precious resources only because of the naïve and uninformed hopes of her loving but pesky family.
Unsurprisingly, Jahi’s family sees things differently. They watched a vibrant young teenager morph into a starkly silent child, her hopes and potential dashed by a relatively simple medical procedure. They have also made clear that despite her current condition, Jahi is still their beloved child, not some washed-up husk ready for disposal. They have also been clear that Jahi is perhaps not as “dead” as Oakland Children’s Hospital would have us all believe. Jahi’s mother and several family members report that Jahi has responded to familiar voices. They have made the case that at the very least Jahi’s medical condition should be given some time before a radical hospital decision deprives her of her life for good.
For the hospital, Jahi’s medical diagnosis is certain and final, a diagnosis they want to leverage to close the book on a public relations crisis that has already badly diminished the reputation of the facility.
It’s not that simple, however, because no medical diagnosis is absolute. The research literature is rife with clinically observed instances of patients outstripping their physicians’ dire predictions by months, years, and even decades.
And that includes diagnoses of brain death.
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Remember the Humanity of Jani McMath