A legal battle over an allegedly brain-dead American teenager is set to continue, with a Californian judge ruling that girl may in fact be alive.
Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido ruled Tuesday that it's up to a jury to determine whether Jahi McMath is still living. The judge had heard evidence from medical experts and viewed video footage that suggested that girl was still minimally conscious, despite adamant testimony from other specialists who say she meets all the relevant criteria of brain death.
In December 2013 13-year-old McMath suffered massive blood loss, cardiac arrest and severe oxygen deprivation following a routine tonsillectomy performed at Children’s Hospital Oakland. The girl was deemed brain dead by doctors and her parents were told that life-support would be withdrawn. The parents disagreed and commenced legal action against the hospital. The case has been heard by several courts over the past three years.
If the California jury rules in favour of McMath’s parents, this would significantly increase the damages that could be awarded for the botched operation.
Bioethicist Thaddeus Mason Pope has called for “clear and precise language” in the broader ethical debate:
“…it is not logical to say that Jahi was correctly determined dead in 2013 and is now alive. If she does not now meet the prevailing medical criteria for brain death, then she did not really ever meet the legal definition of death in 2013… That apparently means there is something deficient about the way we measure brain death.”
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