Pennsylvania Injury Lawyer Julia Munley Comments on Right-to-life battle of 13-year-old
The family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, an 8th-grade girl from California who was declared brain dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery, has achieved its goal of moving the girl to a new facility for long-term care to care for her injury.
Jahi underwent surgery at Children’s Hospital in Oakland on December 9 to treat sleep apnea. Surgeons removed her tonsils and other parts of her nose and throat to widen the air passages. While recovering in the Intensive Care Unit, she bled heavily from her mouth and nose and eventually went into cardiac arrest. Doctors at the hospital declared her brain dead three days later and moved December 20 to remove her from the ventilator. Although the doctors said that Jahi had no chance of recovering, the family appealed a judge’s decision that would allow the hospital to take her off life support. The judge ordered the hospital to keep Jahi on a ventilator until January 6. According to Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer, Julia Munley, the ruling has reignited a heated debate about when life support should end for a severely brain-damaged person.
While the move ends what had been a very public fight with the hospital, it also brings new challenges for the family: caring for a patient whom doctors have said is legally dead because, unlike someone in a coma, there is no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.
The hospital has argued since before Christmas that Jahi’s brain death means she is legally dead and she should be disconnected from the ventilator. It also has refused to fit her with a feeding tube or a breathing tube that would help stabilize her during a move, saying it was unethical to perform medical procedures on a dead person.
“Jahi’s mother refuses to believe her daughter is dead as long as her heart is beating,” her personal injury lawyer said. She wanted to transfer Jahi to another facility and hoped to force Children’s Hospital either to insert the tubes or to allow an outside doctor to do the procedures.
You may remember Terri Schiavo, the woman who was on life support for 15 years through the 1990s. Schiavo was put on life support in 1990 after she collapsed and her heart temporarily stopped. She remained on life support until 2005 living on a feeding tube for more than a decade. Schiavo was the subject of a lengthy legal battle between her parents and her husband, Michael Schiavo, who maintained she wouldn’t have wanted to live in a “persistent vegetative state.” After her death, a foundation was started in her honor to help raise awareness of medical accidents that leave patients on life support, and her situation also raised awareness on the importance of living wills.
Advice from a Pennsylvania Personal Injury lawyer, Julia Munley:
Although this particular story relates to a young girl, this horrible scenario can happen to anyone, as we’ve seen in other cases, including the Terri Schiavo case and also right now with a pregnant woman in Texas, who has been declared brain dead but is still on life support. Consider speaking with your family and your attorney about a living will. It is a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent. If you have questions, contact the Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys.
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