Should This Mother Be Forced To Take Her 13-Year-Old Child Off Of Life Support?
Legally, the state of California considers 13-year-old Jahi McMath to be dead. That’s because doctors have ruled McMath brain dead as a result of complications from a tonsillectomy that she underwent recently. And in California, anyone who is ruled brain dead is also considered legally dead. So the state has decided that McMath is dead, even though she’s technically still alive thanks to a ventilator.
This presents a huge problem for McMath’s family and, specifically, McMath’s mother Nailah Winkfield. That problem is that the Children’s Hospital of Oakland is ready to take McMath off of life support today because of her current condition. However, Winkfield does not want her daughter to be taken off of life support and wants the legal system to prevent the hospital from pulling the plug on her daughter’s life, which is what the hospital was forced to do recently when a temporary restraining order was issued for Winkfield.
“Despite what they say,” Winkfield said in a letter over the weekend, “she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch. Given time I know [God] will spark her brain awake.”
The hospital doesn’t see things that way, though. They think that, by keeping McMath on life support, they’re only delaying the inevitable. And they think it would be “unfair to give false hope that Jahi will come back to life.” So they’re fighting Winkfield for the right to let her daughter die.
But is that their decision to make? On the one hand, there’s a good chance—a great chance even—that McMath is not ever going to get any better. So common sense says that the hospital should not drag her life out simply to drag it out. But on the other, her mother is going through a very traumatic time in her life and doesn’t seem ready to come to terms with the fact that she has lost her daughter. So why should the hospital get to decide to end her life?
Unfortunately, there are no winners here. And the final decision may ultimately have to come from the courts, who will get to decide whether or not McMath will stay on life support. But it seems like there needs to be a better policy in place for this kind of situation. Because a mother should not have to deal with something like this in addition to dealing with the loss of her daughter. So if nothing else, we hope that McMath’s situation forces the state of California to review how they classify people who are considered “brain dead.” It could prevent a situation like this from taking place in the future and save a mother from the heartache that Winkfield is currently feeling.