Saturday, March 29, 2014

Feeding The Fantasy

Remember that sad and sordid story a few months ago about Jahi McMath? She was the 13 year old girl who died from an anoxic brain injury after surgery to treat her sleep apnea. She was pronounced brain dead by multiple pediatric neurologists last December. However a sympathetic judge sided with the family who believed she will one day wake up from the catastrophic surgical complication. The judge allowed the the family to keep the body on a ventilator and let them move her to an undisclosed location.

Apparently this fantasy has not played itself out yet. Yesterday, Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, told a local TV station that Jahi was "still sleeping." Says Ms. Winkfield, "She is blossoming into a teenager before my eyes." Never mind that the poor girl's brain is now a protein mush while her internal organs slowly and inevitably shut down. The only thing keeping her heart pumping is the ventilator that is forcing air into the lungs.

What is really disturbing to me is that Ms. Winkfield was actually being "honored" for her delusional attempts to save Jahi by the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network in Philadelphia. They wanted to praise the family for "protecting the dignity of a loved one against overwhelming odds." Says Bobby Schindler, Terri's younger brother, "Jahi's family persevered through extreme pressure from doctors, media, and public opinion to enable their child a chance to be properly cared for."

Is there any worse way to dishonor the memories of Terri Schiavo? I guess the people who run this network don't recognize the difference between persistent vegetative state and brain death. When somebody is in a persistent vegetative state, which is what Terri was in, their brain is still alive. It's just in a coma but can have a very slim chance of waking up. Brain death means dead.

You would think that after her family struggled through years of heartbreak and legal fighting to keep her alive, they would understand the difference between brain death and persistent vegetative state. Apparently they didn't learn anything despite years of legal arguments about the medical definitions of life, death, and PVS. To equate Jahi's condition, and her family's fantasies, to Terri's medical state is the ultimate affront to her memory and cause.

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