Category Archives: End of Life

The Ethics of Brain Death

I’ve been meaning to post on this subject for a few weeks now. Abortion politics has bleed over into End of Life decisions, clouding the issue of what life is or isn’t as established by science and medical practice.

As Arthur Caplan discusses with Lindsay Beyerstein on Point of Inquiry, The Ethics of Brain Death: The End of Life, the State, and the Religious Right. In that episode of Point of Inquiry he points out that the case of Jahi McMath represents a potential violation of ethics for the doctors involved,

The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain-dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has secured for her the feeding and breathing tubes for which they had been fighting.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl’s family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken on 5 January.

The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have received 28 days ago, when doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland first declared her brain-dead.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery 9 December, then began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest and being declared brain dead on 12 December.

Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.

The GuardianFamily of brain-dead California girl 

…Represents a potential violation of ethics for the doctors involved, since the child in question has been pronounced dead by clinicians in the state. Has been pronounced dead, but remains on life support until current day.

He also talks about the Marlise Machado Muñoz case (NPR story) in which Pro-Life Republicans in Texas have crafted laws that keep this woman’s body alive, costing the hospital thousands of dollars daily, on the off-chance that the fetus she died carrying isn’t also damaged (and it looks like it is) so the cost is quite literally wasted. Someone else actually needs the space that her corpse is kept in.

Facebook Musings backdated to the blog.