Bioethics Blogs

Jahi McMath – Prematurely Fostering Mistrust

Jahi McMath was adjudicated as legally dead in December 2013.  Her family has yet to deliver any cogent, definitive evidence that supports changing her diagnosis. Can they?  Will they?

If Jahi’s family can establish (with independent expert evidence) that she no longer satisfies the criteria for death, that will be tremendously significant.  It will highlight the need to re-attend to the clinical tests by which we ascertain the complete cessation of brain function.  Public confidence in the current diagnosis will be seriously undermined.

But it is worth noting that public confidence is already being undermined – with just the mere suggestion and bald assertion that Jahi may be responsive.  Take, for example, this recent article in the National Catholic Register.

In short, it is one thing to establish an actual refutation, to show that someone can be alive even after a “correct” application of criteria for determining death by neurological criteria.  It is quite another to question the diagnosis based on spurious videos and unsubstantiated allegations. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.