Peter Baklinski

‘She’s very much a living person’: Doctor champions 13-yr-old ‘brain dead’ girl on ventilator

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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OAKLAND, CA, December 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A pioneer doctor in neonatology is championing the life of a 13-year-old girl from California who was officially declared “brain dead” by doctors after a routine tonsillectomy last week went horribly wrong.

“The first thing about ‘brain death’ is that brain death is not true death. It never was and never will be,” said Dr. Paul Byrne, a pioneer neonatologist and clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Toledo to LifeSiteNews.com.

“This girl is still very much a living person. Her life ought to be protected and preserved. No one should be hastening her death or shortening her life,” he said.

Tonsillectomy is a common surgery. Jahi McMath’s December 9 surgery was recommended by doctors to allegedly address the her sleep apnea. While the surgery at first appeared to be successful, the girl began coughing up blood before suffering cardiac arrest. Doctors declared her brain-dead December 12.

The McMath family is seeking a court injunction today through their lawyer that would prevent doctors at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland from taking their daughter Jahi off life-support, despite doctors allegedly telling the family that she is “dead, dead, dead, dead.”

But Jahi’s mother Nailah believes that her daughter is not truly dead.

“I feel her. I can feel my daughter. I just kind of feel like maybe she’s trapped inside her own body. She wants to scream out and tell me something,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jahi's uncle Omari Sealey agrees: "She's still warm. I can feel her presence, I can still feel her smile," he told KGO-TV.

Byrne said that it should be “obvious to everyone,” not just the girl’s relatives, that she is still alive.

“Her heart is beating, she has circulation, she has respiration, her immune mechanisms are intact, and I’m sure she is healing from her tonsillectomy. Healing happens in only a living person.”

“These are facts of life, [indicating] that this girl is a living person and that she’s not dead,” he said.

Byrne explained that someone does not “become dead” because a doctor declares someone ‘brain dead’, “although they intend it that way”, he added.

He explained that the brain dead criteria was “invented” in 1968 by an ad hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School openly seeking a way to harvest organs for transplanting. Since a dead organ taken from a corpse cannot be successfully transplanted into a living body, the committee settled on a definition of death that would allow the harvest of healthy living organs from a still living body that lacked signs of brain activity.

“Brain death was invented, conjured, made-up to get organ transplants,” he said.

Declaring someone ‘brain dead’ to harvest organs is always to the detriment of the patient, Byrne explained. “No one can recover once they’ve had their beating heart and other organs cut out.”

“If doctors can, they will take this young girl’s organs.”

Byrne said it’s a common misconception that a machine, such as a ventilator, gives a person life. The machine only sustains an already existing life.

In a case like Jahi's, the ventilator “only moves the air into a living person. It does not move the air out.”

“The air comes out become the person is alive,” he said.

“The machine supports the vital activities of respiration and circulation, but it does not give life. The life comes from God and from no place else. What doctors [are supposed to] do is protect and preserve the life that’s there,” he said.

The girl’s family is waging a legal battle to keep their daughter on a ventilator and to have doctors insert a feeding tube into her.

“I want her on as long as possible, because I really believe that God will wake her up,” the mother said. The family held a prayer vigil on Wednesday night for their daughter’s recovery.

The family is keeping constant vigil at their girl’s bedside, fearing that doctors might pull the plugs without their knowledge or consent.

The doctors know that the law favors whatever decision they make. California law states that "a person who is declared brain dead is legally and physiologically dead." According to the law, Jahi is dead.

Byrne said that only New York and New Jersey have a conscience clause that offers specific protections to a patient declared ‘brain dead’ whose primary caregiver does not hold cessation of brain activity as true death. “In the other 48 states, there is nothing in their laws to give any kind of protection to the person declared brain dead.”

“All of the laws — and I mean all of them — all revolve around getting organs,” he said.

The hospital administration is asking the family permission to release details that they say will “provide transparency, openness and provide answers to the public about this situation.”

“We implore the family to allow the hospital to openly discuss what has occurred and to give us the necessary legal permission—which it has been withholding—that would bring clarity, and we believe, some measure of closure and deeper understanding of this medical case,” said Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics, in a statement.

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Many people posting online comments underneath Jahi’s story carried by various media agree with the doctors that it’s time for “closure”.

“I’m so sorry for this family. The problem is that they don't seem to understand that no one ‘wakes up’ or recovers from brain death. It's not like being in a coma, where there is still brain activity. The brain is dead; she can't come back,” wrote one.

“Despite the pain they are going through the realization is this: She is clinically brain dead. When the brain stops, everything else stops as well. The life support machine is not going to bring her back to life,” wrote another.

“Legal brain death is 100% of never coming back, She is a corpse and the human life in her is 100% gone,” wrote yet another.

But LifeSiteNews.com has reported on numerous stories of people declared ‘brain dead’ by doctors and who have unexpectedly recovered.

Here are incidents from the past five years:

  • July 2013 - A New York woman who was pronounced ‘brain dead’ by doctors unexpectedly awoke just as her organs were about to be removed for transplant.
  • October 2012 - A documentary titled “Pigen der ikke ville dø” (“The girl who refused to die”), aired on Danish TV, telling the story of 19-year-old Carina Melchior, who awoke after doctors declared her "brain dead" and had approached the family about considering donating her organs.
  • April 2012 - Doctors declared british teen Stephen Thorpe "brain dead," telling the father that the boy would never recover from a serious car accident. Despite pressure from the doctors, the father would not consent to allow the boy’s organs to be donated. With the help of other doctors, five weeks later Thorpe left the hospital, having almost completely recovered.
  • July 2011 - 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.
  • May 2011 - An Australian woman declared “brain dead” regained consciousness after family fought for weeks doctor recommendations that her ventilator be shut off.
  • February 2008 - 65-year-old Raleane Kupferschmidt was taken home to die after relatives were told by doctors that she was "brain dead" from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. The family had already begun to grieve and plan for her funeral when she suddenly awoke and was rushed back to hospital.
  • March 2008 - In one particularly chilling case, 21-year-old Zack Dunlap, who was declared "brain dead" following an ATV accident, recounted how he remembers hearing doctors discussing harvesting his organs. Zack showed signs of life only moments before he was scheduled to be wheeled into the operating theater to have his organs removed. One of Zack’s relatives provoked the reaction by digging a pocketknife under his fingernail.
  • May 2008 - A Virginia family was shocked but relieved when their mother, Val Thomas, woke up after doctors declared her ‘brain dead’. Doctors had not detected brain waves for more than 17 hours, but kept the woman breathing on a respirator. The family were discussing organ donation options for their mother when she suddenly woke up and started speaking to nurses.
  • June 2008 - A Parisian whose organs were about to be removed by doctors after he had "died" of a heart attack, revived on the operating table only minutes before doctors were to begin harvesting his organs.

Dr. Byrne said that with California’s permissive "brain death" laws, the most important thing people can do is pray.

“Pray for this child, for this family,” he said. 

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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease," Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that "it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the email to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in the ice bucket challenge," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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