Bioethics Blogs

California Court Allows Jahi McMath to Prove She Is Alive

This week, the Alameda County Superior Court finally ruled on the demurrers filed by Children’s Hospital Oakland and by Dr. Rosen.


In July, the court indicated that it was inclined to grant the demurrer.  It has indeed done just that.  But the court also granted Jahi leave to amend to allege sufficient facts to establish that she is alive.  If she is alive, then has standing to bring a cause of action in her own name, despite the issuance of a death certificate on January 3,  2014.  And if she can do that, then she can recover economic damages for past and future medical expenses (perhaps over $5 million).

This is a significant ruling in that the court is not strictly applying the rules of collateral estoppel.  That is, although a California court has already declared Jahi dead (in 2013), that fact can now be re-litigated.  

To be sure, this is a ruling only about pleading.  If the First Amended Complaint (due in early November) can allege sufficient facts, then Jahi must still later offer sufficient evidence to substantiate them.  Still, it seems that the amended complaint had better be pretty detailed.    

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.