Catholic Bioethicist advises caution in Jahi McMath Case


Jahi McMath, age 13, underwent a complex tonsil removal surgery at Children’s Hospital Oakland on Dec 9 to treat her sleep apnea. After the surgery, she appeared fine but then underwent cardiac arrest, lost oxygen to her brain and had extensive hemorrhaging, the Los Angeles Times reports. She was first declared brain dead on Dec. 12.

Five physicians, two at Children’s Hospital Oakland and three independent doctors requested by the family, have declared the girl to be brain dead. The doctors have said the girl is unable to breathe on her own and other tests show that there is no blood flow to her brain and no signs of electrical activity. She is presently on a ventilator.

He (John Di Camillo of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Washington) said Catholic teaching holds that “full brain death” criteria are legitimate indicators that the patient has died. However, he also warned about “misleading language” which uses the term “brain death” to describe those who are brain damaged or in states of reduced consciousness where a patient may still have brain stem function.

Family of Terri Schiavo Joins Struggle Over Jahi McMath:

Children’s Hospital Oakland (California) does not want to continue to support Jahi McMath’s life.


A Death Certificate has already been issued. This is a very sad case. A public drama, much money collected and requests for more. May God’s will be done.


From the article.

**Catholic ethics do not support the mentality of “life at all costs,” **but rather promotes life “within reason and within the context of one’s circumstances, possibilities, pain, suffering.” The bioethicist said there is a basic obligation to protect life “within the limits of reason and the limits of that proportionality”

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Five different doctors have declared the child “brain dead.” Three of those doctors were independent from the hospital and worked for the family.

Jahi McMath’s situation has prompted comparisons to Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who suffered severe brain damage in 1990, lived in a persistent vegetative state for years, and died of starvation in March 2005 after a contentious legal battle. Her parents wanted doctors to provide her nutrition and hydration, while her husband did not.

Di Camillo said such a comparison is “difficult” because it is known that Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state and “clearly not brain dead.”

Schiavo “could not satisfy any of the criteria for brain death as far as I understand it,” the bioethicist said, while McMath’s status is “the very question at issue.”

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Yes, God’s will, not Man’s.


I can’t understand how her heart is still beating if she is brain dead? I thought the brain controlled all of our functions. Does she have a machine that is making the heart beat? Plus the people around her say she responds to them.


Brain dead is dead. Why this family is taking money from people is beyond me.


Pediatrician: Jahi McMath is Not “Brain Dead,” Can Recover With Proper Care


Yes. Jahi was removed from the hospital last night shortly before 8 pm. Released to the Coroner who then released body to the mother. Supposedly mother found a place in Long Island who will care for Jahi?

Should be more on the news later.


That guy never met with the patient and doesn’t believe that brain death is “true death” (whatever that means) so I’m not going to listen to his opinion. People like this will likely confuse the issue. A man without a brain is just dead matter, there’s no ghost in the machine.

I support the Hospital’s view here. The parents can take her body wherever they want but won’t help connect her to the machines because they view it as unethical (she is dead after all).


From today’s Washington Times, posted without comment:

The McMath case, however, even goes beyond “disproportionate” means, since Jahi is currently being kept alive artificially with no hope for recovery. Since the brain stem, which controls the involuntary muscle system, is dead, her heart will stop once she is removed from the ventilator. This being the case, the hospital has no further obligation to keep her circulatory system going, since medical intervention is now futile.

To keep a body alive is to deny the natural dying process and to delay the inevitable. This in no way can be construed as a “right-to-life case” since the medical and legal community both accept Jahi’s condition as irreversible — not comatose, but dead. Nor can it be put forward that halting care would constitute a violation of her religious freedom. Since religious morality is reasonable, it accepts the proportionate-disproportionate delineation. To hold out for a miracle is to tempt God. It will also lead to expending, unnecessarily, scarce health care dollars, which in itself would be immoral.

With the above considerations in mind, disconnecting Jahi from the ventilator is the best
solution to this tragic case.

The Rev. Michael P. Orsi is a research fellow in law and religion at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla.



The doctor has said.

“I’ve never seen a time to turn off a ventilator,” he added.


There are several errors in that LifeNews article. Dr. Byrne has no affiliation with St. Charles Hospital. Although he once was head of the neonatology department, he is now 80 years old.

As someone else noted, he never examined Jahi McMath. He declined to do so because he is not licensed in the state of California.

I doubt that the videos of Dr. Bryne came from a TV news cast. They appear to be from a webcam. The poor image quality and awkward angle are giveaways. Moreover, a search of the WNWO (NBC affiliate for northwest Ohio) does not show an interview with Dr. Byrne.


That’s interesting. :thumbsup:

I hope that the truth comes out and that politics (of any stripe) do not trump what the Church genuinely teaches in this case.


The heart is capable of generating its own electrical impulse. But once the ventilator is turned off, the heart tissue will die and will then stop beating.


This doctor is not a credible source. It appears that he is just playing to the desperation of the parents, whether for fame or money, idk. That someone would do this is reprehensible.


Then I don’t understand why the hospital doesn’t just let the family take over like they wanted. Help move her to a place the family wants her and not make such a big stink out of it. Where is compassion anymore?

I think the hospital is in big trouble anyway for botching a simple surgery. You think they would want to be good to the family. Bet the family sues and there will be no medical bill for the family to worry about.


Heart muscle cells do have the ability to transmit electrical impulses; however, the heartbeat, blood pressure, respiration, coughing and swallowing are controlled by the medulla oblongata, in the hindbrain. If this girl’s ventilator is removed, she will not be able to breathe on her own. Her heart will stop. Brain dead is dead.


The liability for a wrongful death is capped at 250k in California. If Jahi is kept alive then the hospital could possibly be on the hook for her long term care and medical expenses. It is in the best financial interests of a hospital if a child dies under their care rather than is severely injured requiring expensive treatment.

The hospital may understandably not wish to pay for very expensive medical care for a corpse.


That and then there is also the assumption that the hospital and/or doctors did something wrong. There are always possible complications from surgery and not all bad outcomes are the result of malpractice.




The ONLY reason her heart is still beating is because a ventilator is artificially pumping oxygen to her heart. I suspect that this is what is causing confusion for the family who believe she’s still alive. In their minds, heartbeat = alive. This is just not the case. She is gone. She’s not coming back. As soon as the ventilator is turned off her heart tissue will be deprived of oxygen and die and will no longer beat. Whoever is leading this family on to believe that there is hope for her or a chance for a miracle is being unbelievably cruel.

Don’t get me wrong. My heart breaks for this family and it does appear that the hospital may have been negligent in her care. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is no brain activity, confirmed by several seperate doctors. She is not in a coma. She’s not in a PVS. She is irreversibly gone. And any medical professional that is leading the family to believe otherwise is being seriously cruel and negligent.

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