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Should This Mother Be Forced To Take Her 13-Year-Old Child Off Of Life Support?

Submitted by on December 23, 2013 – 9:31 am5 Comments

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.

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  • Michael Bentley says:

    I am very sorry for her loss. But this is a prime example of why health care costs are spiraling out of control. We have the technology to keep a body “warm” as the mother describes almost forever. If this woman can afford that, more power to her, But I suspect the rest of us are footing this bill. Anyone in this predictament is going to be in denial, but that should not give them the right to force society to pay. If her daughter hangs on without life support , then that is a different matter, that is “God’s will” .

  • Rosie says:

    I think California is so wrong thinking that there’s no hope that Jahi won’t wake up, in time. In Gilroy 16 years ago the Dr’s said that my uncle was basically dead too & that when his heart would stop beating they were going to call it, believing that he wouldn’t make it through the night. They said there was no way he was going to live. That his organs were no good & that they were unrepairable. I had been by his side representing our whole family, and I knew that there was life left for him. I too refused the so called Dr’s diagnosis about my uncles so called pending death. Bottom line, he’s alive and he didn’t die as the Dr’s were so sure that he was going to. I ended up being expelled from the hospital & lied about just so they would have a reason to throw me out, because they were proven wrong and of course none of those lies were true, however they aren’t God to be able to make those kind of predictions. I believed & I took better care of my uncle than they were. I’m not saying that they weren’t helping him, but rather they themselves had no hope. I believe that until a person has truly passed & ALL has been exhausted, there’s always hope. Some Dr’s have got to stop thinking they are God & start being greatfull they have been blessed instead of thinking they are powerful judges to pass such judgment on humanity. I know some Dr’s that still believe that there’s hope & that’s why they became physicians. Some Dr’s have compassion as well as heart & some are just in it for the money,sad but true. Sometimes, it’s just hospitals and insurance, but in the end, it’s still the hospital and the Dr’s call to end a life & I believe that there should be unity when making such a difficult decision.
    I can’t believe that this is an issue especially around the Christmas season. I feel so bad for the Mc Math family. May my prayers be heard in harmony with everyone else & my thoughts are with you

  • george says:

    A hospital in New Orleans said the same thing about my dad after he was beaten in the head till his skull was cracked and his face swollen to a bubble. They said he was only alive because of the machines and he was braindead. It took a while but he managed to walk and talk again. Prayer changes things!

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