Bioethics Blogs

Jahi McMath – Impact Even if the Lawsuit Fails

Jahi McMath continues to litigate medical malpractice claims against the Oakland healthcare providers who treated her in 2013. 

In July, the medical defendants argued that Jahi’s claims must fail, because there is no valid evidence that she is now alive. Consequently, she has no standing to assert personal injury claims. The judge has not yet ruled on the pending motions for summary adjudication. But it looks like Jahi has submitted enough evidence that the life/death question should proceed to trial.

At trial, the jury might conclude that Jahi is still dead, because they find Jahi’s evidence to be less credible than the defendants’ evidence. The jury might also conclude that the defendants did not commit malpractice. If the jury reaches either conclusion, then Jahi’s claims will fail.

If Jahi wins her lawsuit, that means there is something wrong with the way we measure brain death. It is supposed to be “irreversible.” 

But even if Jahi loses her lawsuit, it will have had significant impact. First, the fact that she has been sustained this long (approaching 4 years) also suggests (though less obviously) that there is something wrong with the way we measure brain death. Second, it has sown distrust and confusion across the country, resulting in more family-clinician conflicts surrounding brain death.

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.