Does Brain Dead Really Mean Brain Dead?

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Does Brain Dead Really Mean Brain Dead?

September 21
18:00 2017

Whenever I hear anyone mention the term brain dead these days, I usually think about our federal government. After all, there are times it seems like Washington politicians are brain dead on many issues and it’s up to voters to pull their life support – at the polls.

When it comes to the medical world, being told your loved one is brain dead is serious and devastating. In today’s medical world, many doctors seem to be too anxious to declare someone ‘brain dead’. Is it because they are so overloaded with patients or because they see organs ready to be harvested for donations?

There have been cases of people being in a coma for extended lengths of time and pronounced brain dead and then suddenly reviving. How long do you wait? How do you know if someone is really brain dead or just locked inside, unable to get out?

In 1990, 33-year-old Schiavo suffered a heart attack at her home in Florida. Eventually, she was resuscitated, but her brain had been without oxygen long enough to cause severe brain damage. She was left in a comatose state.

Two months later, her status was changed to ‘persistent vegetative state’, essentially telling her parents that she was brain dead. Doctors and specialists spent the next couple of years trying to work with Schiavo with speech and physical therapy, but there was no apparent improvement.

In 1998, Schiavo’s husband. Michael believed his wife to be brain dead and wanted to remove her life support, but her parents objected. This led to Michael turning to the courts to grant him permission. Her parents bitterly fought against the lawsuit.

For the next seven years, while the court battle between Michael and Terry’s parents waged on,  Schiavo’s parents contended that their daughter was not brain dead nor in a purely vegetative state as she had smiled at them and several other small indications of awareness. Yet, doctors and Michael disagreed.

In 2005, courts granted Michael’s request to remove her feeding tube, but the parents appealed the motion. Michael finally won out and Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed, allowing her to starve death over the course of several days. Her parents tried in vain to stop the starvation, saying that their daughter was in pain and agony, but on March 31, 2005, Terry Schiavo was pronounced dead.

The question still lingers with her parents and some friends as to whether or not Terry Schiavo was really brain dead or if she had some level of consciousness but was unable to express it.

This is the same situation the parents of Jahi McMath, in California were facing. At age 13, Jahi went to the hospital for a routine tonsillectomy. During the operation, something went terribly wrong and Jahi ended up being declared brain dead by the doctors. They told her parents that her body would slowly shut down until she died. They urged the family to unplug her life support and allow their daughter to die, but the parents refused.

Jahi, now 15-years old, is apparently defying all of the medical experts who said she was brain dead and who recommended letting her die. Her parents have made video recordings of the girl obviously responding to their voices.

Alexandra Snyder, Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation commented about Jahi McMath’s situation:

“Jahi McMath is now a 15-year-old young woman. [She] had severe complications from a tonsillectomy a couple of years ago, and, at the time, she was declared brain dead. She had lost oxygen to her brain for a period of time.”

“A very well-known, very prominent pediatric neurologist at UCLA examined Jahi’s records, and examined the video records showing her responding. And he said there is no way that this behavior is consistent with ‘brain dead’.”

McMath’s parents are holding out hope for continued responses and some recovery of their daughter as they are now moving forward with a lawsuit against the hospital.

If you or your family are told by doctors that one of your loved ones is brain dead, make sure you know the intentions of the loved one lying there and then weigh all the circumstances before making the decision to pull the plug. Doctor’s don’t know everything and are known to be wrong, which is why it’s referred to as ‘practicing’ medicine instead of performing medicine.

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