Life Support and Death Support

One of the top stories right now is the story of Jahi McMath, a 13 year old girl who suffered some sort of brain trauma during a routine tonsil surgery. The girl is legally brain dead, but on life support.

The long and short of it is that the hospital wants to unplug her and the family wants to transfer her to a different hospital.

This is one of those cases where you really have to get to the root of the issue and not believe everything you see on television. There are several issues at stake:

1. What is life?
2. Who decides for a minor?
3. Who is responsible and how does that factor into the decision?

First, life is more than a beating heart. It is the consciousness and the desire to make tomorrow better than today. It is the essence that makes up an individual. Well, that’s my definition. By my definition, a crack addict may not actually be alive (if they are not seeking treatment), but a severely handicapped person is alive. By the proponent of partial birth abortion, life is not life until a baby can support itself- which I would think meant small children were still not alive and neither were crack addicts. The bottom line is that where life begins and what it means is an individual decision, not subject to popular opinion. Having said that, I can’t shoot a crack addict, even if I believe he is not alive. I don’t have an easy answer to this.

Second, a 13 year old is still a minor. She does not have a do not resuscitate order in place (who would for routine tonsil surgery?) and now she is incapacitated and cannot decide. As the caretakers, the parents should have the authority to make this decision. However, a hospital should be able to deny which treatments they are willing to provide. I shouldn’t be able to force a doctor to perform brain surgery on me if it is against his advice. Therefore, the doctor can say they refuse to provide life support, if they choose. They can not, however, block a transfer to a different hospital. Even changing procedures becomes a gray area; you can’t go in to get heart surgery and the doctor stop half way through and say, “nah, I can’t do it.” On the other hand, a doctor SHOULD change procedures if he or she learns new information where the surgery might be significantly less successful.

Third: So the very hospital that botched a routine surgery is now saying that the girl will never recover. Why do I have trouble trusting their diagnosis? What if they were wrong? Likely, they are right- this girl is brain dead. But don’t be surprised if I don’t rush out to believe every word they say.

This whole scenario stinks. A hospital botches a routine surgery and now wants to pull the plug on the person they ruined. The family wants to transfer. They want to pull the plug before there can be a transfer.

I can’t imagine what I would do as any person in this scenario- yet I think if I was the doctor, I would not have the gall to take a family to court over my mistake. Any time I spent not questioning my abilities would likely be spent praying (even if I wasn’t religious) and doing my best to comfort the family. Instead, these guys rush off to have the girl killed.

If I was an evil scientist and I botched an experiment, I would try to have the experiment killed cheaply rather than paying for a lifetime of care. Just throwing that out there.

It stinks. I don’t know if we are seeing all of the information. In the mean time, that hospital better be doing everything in their power to take care of that girl until they can transfer her somewhere else.

Please remember this family and their struggles.


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