A 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.
More from The Stir: 2 Month-Old Dies After Father Gives Him a Kiss
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