Writing at Religion News Service Cathy Grossman explores the collision between family, ethics, law and medicine in the tragic events surrounding Jahi McMath:
Is Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old whose entire brain has ceased to function, dead or alive? Must doctors at a California hospital operate to prepare her for a move to a care facility in New York even though the hospital insists she is dead? No doctor can be compelled to treat the dead.
Or is she alive now and wanting to live on? Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, insists that removing the life-support machinery, which is performing all Jahi’s bodily functions, is the same as killing her daughter. Only a court order keeps Jahi still on life support, and that order expires on Tuesday (Jan. 7).
On Friday, a federal magistrate was expected to begin mediating the three-week-long dispute between Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland and Jahi’s parents. But the battle goes beyond the courtroom, the hospital, and Jahi’s family because American society still struggles with defining death.
Update:” The Alameda County coroner has issued a death certificate Friday stating Jahi McMath died on Dec. 12, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Oakland Hospital where McMath remains on a ventilator has reached a mediated agreement with the girl’s mother. Nailah Winkfield will be allowed to have a critical care team move Jahi to a care facility, knowing that the girl may suffer cardiac arrest during the transfer, the Chronicle reports. Winkfied reportedly said her daughter is “showing me improvements.””
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