- Jun 20:
- Jahi McMath: Experts say New Jersey 'best destination' for brain-dead patients
- Jun 18:
- Jahi McMath being kept at New Jersey hospital
- Jun 13:
- Jahi McMath: Brain-dead Oakland girl receives certificate from school
- Jun 12:
- Jahi McMath getting diploma for eighth grade, family says
- Jun 11:
- Jahi McMath: Family pushing school to grant brain-dead teen's diploma
- Mar 13:
- Jahi McMath: Family calls state report 'B.S.'; new medical record details emerge
- Jahi McMath: State releases report on Children's Hospital Oakland's handling of patients
- Feb 27:
- Jahi McMath's family to get award from Terri Schiavo foundation
- Feb 19:
- Jahi McMath: Complete text of letter from brain-dead girl's mother
- Jahi McMath 'much better,' her mother says
- Feb 1:
- Jahi McMath: Is it safe to have tonsil surgery at Children's Hospital Oakland?
- Jan 27:
- Jahi McMath video claims to show her feet and toes move
- Jan 25:
- Jahi McMath: five similar brain death legal cases
- Jahi McMath: Could her case change how California determines death?
- Jan 17:
- John Horgan: Don't be too quick to judge Jahi McMath's family
- John Horgan: Readers react to Jahi McMath commentary
- Jan 9:
- Jahi McMath: Medical experts say organ failure inevitable
- Jan 8:
- Jahi McMath: Girl given breathing, feeding tubes, attorney says
- Jan 7:
- Jahi McMath: Streetfighting lawyer takes heat, death threats for brain-dead Oakland girl's family
- Jan 6:
- Jahi McMath: Family says brain-dead teen's body may be too deteriorated to save
- Document: Medical analysis of Jahi McMath's deteriorating condition
- Jahi McMath: Brain-dead girl moved to undisclosed care facility
- Jan 5:
- Jahi McMath: Brain-dead teen's family moves her from Children's Hospital Oakland
- Jahi McMath: Timeline of events in case of brain-dead Oakland teen
- Jahi McMath: 13-year-old brain-dead Oakland girl moved by family from hospital
- Jan 3:
- Daniel Borenstein: Mischaracterizations of Jahi's condition ignites insane legal fight
- Jahi McMath: Mom can remove brain-dead daughter from hospital, judge rules
- Jan 2:
- Jahi McMath: Case heads to federal court Friday
- Jan 1:
- Jahi McMath family spends first day of 2014 searching for doctor to help get teen to New York facility
- Dec 31:
- Document: Hospital decries Jahi McMath family's wishes to keep her on ventilator
- Jahi McMath may be transferred to treatment center in New York
- Jahi McMath: Terri Schiavo group secretly leading transfer efforts
- Jahi McMath: Hospital fights in court to remove brain-dead girl from ventilator
- Dec 30:
- Jahi McMath: Judge's order keeping girl on ventilator reinvigorates family
- Jahi McMath: Judge extends order keeping girl on ventilator
- Dec 29:
- Jahi McMath: Statement of Children's Hospital Oakland
- Jahi McMath: Mom and lawyer say only remaining option for brain-dead girl is a New York care facility
- Dec 28:
- Jahi McMath: Family, attorney release letter addressing critics
- Jahi McMath: Family trying to raise money to get 13-year-old airlifted out of state
- Dec 27:
- Jahi McMath: Hospital open to transferring brain-dead teen but won't perform surgery required by admitting facilities
- Jahi McMath: Children's Hospital Oakland agrees to release brain-dead girl to long-term care
- Dec 26:
- Jahi McMath: Family ready to move brain-dead girl to new facility; hospital may refuse surgery request
- Jahi McMath: 2 years ago, a girl wound up severely brain damaged following similar surgery
- Jahi McMath: Family says they'll move brain-dead girl to another Bay Area facility
- Dec 25:
- Jahi McMath: Family tries to have normal holiday celebration in hospital waiting room
- Dec 24:
- Lost in the divisive battle over Jahi McMath is a mother's undeniable love
- Jahi McMath: Judge denies petition to keep girl on ventilator past Dec. 30
- Dec 23:
- Jahi McMath: Judge extends order to keep brain-dead girl on ventilator
- Dec 22:
- Faith leaders call on prosecutors to investigate Jahi McMath case
- Oakland: Need for tonsillectomies in question
- Dec 21:
- Jahi, her mom and 13 days at Children's Hospital Oakland
- Jahi McMath: Medicine's ability to keep a heart beating complicates how death is perceived
- Oakland: Emotional letter from Jahi McMath's mom to keep daughter 'warm'
- Dec 20:
- Oakland: Judge grants restraining order keeping Jahi McMath on ventilator through Monday
- Family of Oakland girl on ventilator furious after meeting with hospital officials
- Dec 19:
- Family of girl left brain dead at Children's Hospital Oakland demands medical records
- Dec 18:
- Jahi McMath prayer vigil: "God knows we want a miracle"
- Family of Oakland girl on life support after tonsil surgery calls for international prayer vigil
- Dec 16:
- Family furious, hospital investigating after tonsil surgery leaves girl brain-dead
- Oakland: Girl declared brain dead after tonsil surgery may be taken off life support Tuesday
- Dec 15:
- Oakland girl, 13, declared brain-dead after tonsil surgery
Every parent identifies with Nailah Winkfield's desperate search for a miracle for her 13-year-old daughter, Jahi McMath, who was declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy that went horribly wrong Dec. 9. The family's pain has been all the more heart-wrenching as the tragedy unfolded over Christmas, the season of hope for so many.
It also is an impossible situation for Oakland Children's Hospital and the doctors involved.
Last week a Lucile Packard Children's Hospital neurosurgeon appointed by a judge as an independent expert was the latest to certify that Jahi is brain dead.
Nailah Winkfield reacts during a press conference organized by local clergy regarding her daughter, 13-year-old patient Jahi McMath, outside Children's Hospital Oakland on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. McMath, who doctors declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy, is being kept on life support until a court-appointed doctor can examine her. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)
People do come out of comas and, on occasion, out of a persistent vegetative state. It can seem truly like a miracle. But in these states, the brain still has some functions. There is no recovery from brain death. Ever. It is a uniform standard for being legally dead in California and nearly every other state.
Machines that keep lungs and hearts pumping give loved ones the illusion of life. But it is an illusion. And the cost to society, hospitals and caregivers to maintain a fiction of hope is simply too high.
Keeping a patient on life support in an intensive care unit costs, at a minimum, $2,000-$4,000 per day and can run to hundreds of thousands in a year. Nurses and doctors have to provide continuous care, warding off bed sores and other problems. It takes time and equipment capacity that otherwise could be available to ICU patients who have real hope of recovery.
The family's decision Thursday to move Jahi to a care facility raised further ethical issues for Children's Hospital, which would need to perform surgical procedures on a person who is legally dead.
Since the beginning of civilization, doctors and religious leaders have struggled to define when a person is dead. The ancient Egyptians focused on the beating of the heart. Others over the centuries looked at breathing or a response to stimulation.
In 1968, a Harvard Medical School committee developed a new definition of death as the moment when a person suffered irreversible cessation of the functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem. The theory was that a person's consciousness, or being, was dependent on brain function.
Doctors have been refining the test for brain death ever since. But brain activity, once fully ended, does not return.
The tragedy of Jahi McMath shows that many people are still uncomfortable with equating the death of the brain with death itself, when machines keep lungs and hearts going. But as widely respected medical ethicist Arthur Caplan wrote last week, "Once brain death is declared, doctors have the right to stop treatments including life-support. ... no matter what the family might say, death is a clear line beyond which treatment need not and should not continue."
Jahi's tragedy has touched the hearts of millions. We wish her family the strength and grace to cope with it.