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