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Time to take brain dead patients off life support

January 3, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Two tragic cases of brain dead patients are in the news this week.

In one case, a mother is fighting desperately to force an Oakland, Calif., hospital to keep her 13-year-old daughter, who was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy in early December, on life support. In another case, the husband of a brain dead pregnant woman wants a North Texas hospital to disconnect her from life support. The hospital has refused, citing a state law that requires them to provide life support to save the fetus of a pregnant woman.

Erick Munoz, husband of Marlise, said his 33-year-old wife would never want to be kept alive on life support. Marlise, who suffered a likely pulmonary embolism in November when she was 14 weeks pregnant, was a paramedic like her husband. She made her wishes on the subject well known, according to her husband, who doesn't seem to want to keep his wife on life support even if it might save their unborn child. None of the articles have said so explicitly, but I imagine the family is concerned about the prospect of the baby being born with severe disabilities. Surely, this is not an ideal situation for a pregnancy and chances are high that the fetus has already sustained brain damage if the mother was without oxygen for several minutes. If he or she is born prematurely, there is also an increased risk of disability. Medical bills are probably also extensive. The Munozes already have a one-year-old son at home whom Erick Munoz will now have to raise on his own. But doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas have told the family that state law requires that they must leave Marlise on life support until her pregnancy has reached 24 weeks or until she has miscarried.

Meanwhile, at Children's Hospital, Oakland, Nailah Winkfield has been waging a bitter battle to force doctors to leave her teenage daughter on a ventilator. Doctors have said 13-year-old Jahi McMath is brain dead, has no hope of recovery, and they have refused to do tracheotomy surgery or insert a feeding tube or assist in any way in moving the girl to a long term care facility. According to news reports, the county has already issued the girl's death certificate.

A judge ruled today that Winkfield can remove the girl from the hospital as long as she assumes full responsibility for the girl's body, according to news reports. Winkfield, who seems to be in a state of denial, still seems to believe that the girl will recover. There is apparently a long term care facility in Long Island that might take the girl, but first the family needs to find a doctor willing to insert a trach and a feeding tube.

I think it's probably time to disconnect both Marlise Munoz and Jahi McMath, both of whom are dead, from life support. While it may be crass to consider money, it is also true that medical resources are finite. Jahi McMath is occupying a bed in the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital that another child probably needs. Everyone can sympathize with the pain of a mother who has lost a child and with her need for time to come to terms with the loss, but I'm not sure that anyone can afford to give her weeks and months, at the cost of millions of dollars, to come to terms with that loss and to accept that what the doctors are telling her is true. In the case of Munoz, I would support her husband if he wanted to keep his wife on life support long enough to save his child, but I can also sympathize with his position that his wife would not want this and he does not want it for her. Taking her off life support is a choice that he should legally be allowed to make.

Who do you think is right in these situations?

 
 

Article Comments

(36)

AndreaJohnson

Jan-09-14 10:21 AM

I think there's a limit to what can be allowed under the law, though. If you have someone who is brain dead, as Jahi McMath is, there is no hope of recovery. There is no blood flow to her brain and no electrical activity in her brain. Her body is trying to shut itself down and wasting away, because her brain is dead. I think keeping a body in that state is profoundly disrespectful and disturbing.

JzblJustice

Jan-08-14 10:26 PM

Private, personal medical decisions about life and death should be left up to the individual, their doctor, and their god. Reasonable people differ on their views of morality, and what is or is not 'moral' under these circumstances should not be legislated by politicians.

JackAaah

Jan-08-14 8:35 AM

if we would just have had a death panel, this family would not be going through this....

AndreaJohnson

Jan-07-14 2:12 PM

The girl has been moved to a longterm care facility but the most recent reports suggest her physical condition is deteriorating rapidly. It's a pity that the family wasn't able to accept her death and are prolonging their own agony like this. The girl herself is not suffering any longer. I think she has been with God since December 12.

rajiihammr

Jan-06-14 10:21 PM

Bornagainandraised is disgusted.

disgusted

Jan-06-14 8:50 PM

From Andrea, "Lifesite News is not the world's most unbiased or reliable news site. " Takes one to know one!

rajiihammr

Jan-06-14 6:55 PM

With some,like born and raised,everything is black or white, right or wrong, living or living, reverent or heathen.

Those types make logical leaps continually. If Andrea advocates for a scientific conclusion, she obviously will not stop short of pluggin' you 'cause you have a broken leg. Yep, a completely logical conclusion.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-06-14 12:19 PM

Lifesite News is not the world's most unbiased or reliable news site. In the McMath case, a death certificate has been issued. She died on December 12.

Bornandraised

Jan-06-14 11:57 AM

off. The paragraphs ran together on me. It was 3 seperate stories about a 76 year old woman, 21 year old man, and a 17 year old teenager. In all 3 cases the doctors wanted to pull the plug. The odds are slim. You probably have a better chance of winning the Powerball.

Bornandraised

Jan-06-14 11:52 AM

"Brain dead is dead." (I love qoutes, and paranthetical asides). Tell that to these people.

DROMMONDVILLE, Quebec, July 5, 2011 (LifeSiteNews****) – Last week, Madeleine Gauron, a Quebec woman identified as viable for organ donation after doctors diagnosed her as “brain dead,” surprised her family and physicians when she recovered from a coma, opened her eyes, and began eating. There was no activity’ Doctors have no explanation for why Dunlap is alive. He had been riding his souped-up ATV with some friends on that fateful Saturday, less than a week before Thanksgiving.“It makes me thankful that they didn’t give up,” Zack said, turning the knife over in his hand. “Don’t let the good die young.” 'Miracle recovery' of teen declared brain dead by four doctors

A teenager who was declared brain dead by four doctors has made a "miracle" recovery after his parents asked for another medical opinion, just moments before his life support machine could have been switched

AndreaJohnson

Jan-06-14 9:31 AM

Brain dead is dead. There is no hope of recovery, unlike with someone who has a broken leg or is in a vegetative state and has brain function. Has anyone ever read the Faulkner novella "A Rose for Emily?"

Bornandraised

Jan-06-14 1:25 AM

Until you have children and are willing to give up absolutely everything, even as absurd and delusional as it may seem, you can't make that call. "I can't imagine how devastated this mother must be, but she also shouldn't be allowed to keep her dead child on life support." Shouldn't be allowed. Strong words. If they can afford it (I'm sure lawsuits will be coming) and they aren't breaking any laws I don't see how they "shouldn't be allowed." God help me if I slip and break a leg in front of you. I probably wont even hear the 'click' of the gun.

EarlyBird

Jan-05-14 1:11 PM

Oh darn I misspelled lobbyist pretty bad, that's what I meant ;)

Jan-05-14 11:07 AM

Extremists? You mean lobbyists.

EarlyBird

Jan-05-14 7:39 AM

Yeah and send the brain dead walking zombies we call politicians down the road too. And for the benefit of all pull the plug on the extremists who think they represent anybody but themselves.

Jan-05-14 1:55 AM

I still say...why is brain death considered death? There are many living people who have no brain activity.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-04-14 8:58 PM

It's hard to know what caused it, but I think a lawsuit is likely. The surgery the girl had sounds more complex than just a tonsillectomy, based on what I read, and she had health problems before the surgery.

redneck

Jan-04-14 6:18 PM

well if i were that kid and knowing my mother, she and i would like to see me get a chance at life, so at this point her body is just a source of incubation and should be kept on life support til the child is born

JackAaah

Jan-04-14 5:30 PM

....sounds like we need a 'death panel'.

landslide14

Jan-04-14 4:28 PM

I suspect the money to pay the bills will come from the lawsuit which I expect will follow..both against the hospital and the Doctor..

Lots more to come on this issue..

According to family members, Jahi went into cardiac arrest. Days later, she was declared brain dead.

Hospital officials have said privacy laws prevent them from discussing details of the case.

So I figure Nancy Grace will get another 2 year contract just to cover this legal battle that will come up very soon..

disgusted

Jan-04-14 4:27 PM

The end result is the same. No cognitive interaction. Is there any dignity in having to have each and every bodily function handled by strangers? But,you jumped on the media train and have no compassion. Why don't you run out there and tell the mom to pull the plug, that she is just being stupid and wasting time and money? Why don't you go do that? Do some face to face confrontation rather than safely behind a blog on a trivial paper?

landslide14

Jan-04-14 4:23 PM

In the case of the pregnant Mom the Mother IS the feeding tube to the baby..

To shut off the mothers body would mean certain death to the child..

If that were my child I would want it to be delivered as close to full term as possible..

Yes Disgusted your right.. The Courts now wish to be the "in charge " person but then again if you go out Dr Kevorkin style you risk sending the Dr to jail for life..

I'm sure many would like to pass a law that anyone over age 75 be put to death immediately..

This descision should be strictly the parents.. Not the courts..not the judges.. This mother would like to move the child to a nursing home but the hospital refuses a feeding tube..

If the child was brain dead after surgery WHY did the hospital put her on a ventilator? My friend died from complications of heart surgery..the Doctors walked out and said he died.. They didnt hook him up to a ventialtor and then ask..

Sounds like enough blame to go around here for everyone.. And

AndreaJohnson

Jan-04-14 3:39 PM

Again -- this girl is brain dead. There is a difference between someone in a vegetative state with brain function and this girl. She cannot wake up. She cannot recover. The county has issued her death certificate.

disgusted

Jan-04-14 3:28 PM

Andrea, you jump on a media driven story and demand they pull the plug because it is expensive. The mother should have no say. So, let's stop tube feeding all the vegetables lying in nursing homes debilitated from accidents. There are 1000's of young people/adults across the country whose heart is beating and their lungs working on their own, but can do nothing for themselves. Let's pull the plug. No family member should have to endure that or have the say about their family member.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-04-14 1:25 PM

I'm not a theologian, but I don't think the Catholic Church requires extraordinary measures to preserve life under these circumstances. If you remove either person from life support, they will not be able to breathe on their own or sustain bodily functions. An organ donor is usually kept on life support long enough for the organ donation, but he or she isn't considered to be alive once brain death has occurred. There's a difference between brain death and a vegetative state, where there is some brain function.

 
 

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