Parents of Girl 'Brain Dead' After Tonsil Surgery Fight Hospital to Keep Her Alive

Heartbreaking 12

hospital bedA family in California is grieving today after a usually routine surgery left their 13-year-old daughter, Jahi McMath, brain dead and on life support. Jahi's mother and father brought their daughter to the hospital to undergo a voluntary tonsillectomy. They had hoped the routine procedure would help with Jahi's weight gain and frequent urination.

They were shocked and horrified when just a couple of hours after waking up from her surgery, Jahi was rushed to the ICU. Eventually, due to excessive blood loss, Jahi was oxygen-deprived, which caused swelling in over two-thirds of her brain.

Potential complications are listed at the start of every medical procedure, but with something as commonplace as a tonsillectomy, which is performed on countless children annually, it seems unspeakably shocking that this could occur: The doctors pronounced Jahi legally dead.

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Jahi's family brought her to the hospital to improve the quality of her life. Then, in the blink of an eye, they were faced with the reality that they had lost their child. The loss must be devastating, especially when she's still on life support and, thus, to some members of her family, still alive.

Adding worse upon worse, the family is now fighting the hospital to keep their child on life support. They claim the hospital is insisting that Jahi be removed. Since she is legally dead, this is procedure so that the coroner's office can begin its investigation into what went wrong and led to this tragedy.

It begs the question, who should have the right to decide? While I cannot begin to imagine the pain the family is feeling during this awful time, I can see where the hospital is coming from. Their approach makes them seem callous -- but they are looking out for Jahi and her family. Because the longer a body is on life support, the more it can heal even if the brain never does.

If it heals, there will be fewer clues to help them solve the mystery of their daughter's illness. These clues could direct them towards a possible source of blame and answer all their questions. Letting go of their child must be next to impossible, but taking these next steps could really help them start the arduous process of healing.

Do you think the family or the hospital has the right to make this sort of decision?


Image via markhillary/Flickr

illness, medicine


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ZamEnt25 ZamEnt25

It is their child and they need to decide. HOW can a hospital decide that they want to completely kill their child. This is INSANE!

Graca... Gracalynsmom

two doctor's have said she is brain dead. :( and it was to cure sleep apnea.

adamat34 adamat34

Sadly I believe it only takes two licensed physicans to declare brain death and can remove the support.

I pray finds peace.

nonmember avatar Odd!

I have never heard of having your tonsils removed causes weight loss.

But I think that the family should have the choice to remove life support. Depending on their religious and personal beliefs especially!

Movie... Moviebuff

They need to pull the plug. The longer to keep her own the harder it will be she is already dead.

Bobbie Scherzer

They need to pull the plug.  I'm sorry for what happened to them, but keeping her on life support is making it harder for them.  If the child is truly brain dead, it is wrong to make her suffer like that.  

nonmember avatar Paige Kaye

Brain death is different from 'persistent vegetative state' (think Terri Schiavo). If she is truly brain dead, she is physiologically incapable of suffering.

So long as the parents have been educated that keeping their daughter's body 'alive' may hinder a malpractice investigation, the hospital can wash their hands of the matter and leave the decision to the family. It is still common in many cultures for the recently-passed to be 'viewed' for weeks, months, even a year or more, to allow the community and family time to mourn. If the parents choose to give themselves a while longer to mourn in the modern day 'parlour' of the ICU ward, that is their right. Leave them to it.

Jespren Jespren

The problem is 'brain dead' is not a 'real' thing, it's just a list of chriteria which can vary greatly from hospital to hospital and even depending upon which doctor you get. So I wouldn't blame anyone who didn't trust a 'brain dead' dianosis at first and wanted to wait and see for a time. I think eventually you need to unplug and let nature take it's due course, but that should be up to the family, not the doctors. *especially* not the same doctors whose screwed up a tonsilectomy and post opt so badly a child died. Come on now. Would *you* believe those doctors??

adamat34 adamat34

Odd...the weight loss would cone from fixing the sleep apnea..more energy more activity..and so on and so forth.

Sarah... SarahHall58

There is no such thing as a routine surgery. Even something that seems as simple as a tonsillectomy is still surgery which includes general anesthesia. There are risks. This particular thing has been documented before. Any kind of medical intervention affects everyone differently just like medication affects everyone differently. I feel bad for this family and I understand that they feel they should be the ones to make the decision. The law is in place to stop families from keeping their loved one on life support because they are unable to accept the truth and reality of the situation. Jespren you are wrong. Brain death does exist and IS a real thing. She had no brain activity. Her body is unable to keep her breathing and unable to keep her heart beating without the use of external life support systems. If they stopped the life support she would be dead because her body can not sustain life. She will NEVER recover. Brain death is different than a coma and a vegetative state. What made this child HER is gone. It's time to let her go. It's devestating and tragic and I will NEVER diminish that but in this case you have to look at what's best for the patient. How is keeping her artificially alive in the best interest of the patient? She's gone. It's time.

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