PRO: Life Support

Yusheng Xia, Editor in Chief

The family of 13-year-old Jahi Macmath fought valiantly to keep their daughter on life support while the signs around them screamed hopelessness. Their victory in court over the Children’s Hospital Oakland marked part of a growing controversy over defining the border between life and death.

Protestors against keeping Jahi on the ventilator have put out many reasons for her removal: financial cost, wasted care, and death itself. Yet many of them look only at the pronouncement of brain-death given to Jahi and don’t recognize the full picture. These people don’t see a family whose religion believes that life exists through the beating of a heart, not the functioning of a brain. They don’t see a child who, only moments before, had been normally conversing with her parents before suddenly spitting out blood and falling unconscious. Most of all, they don’t see a heartbroken mother who is left mystified on why her daughter is in such a critical state after what should have been a simple surgery.

Jahi had just gone through tonsillectomy, the surgical removal of the tonsils, when she started suffering from brain damage. She was officially declared brain-dead on December 12—just three days later. After such sudden progression of events, the Macmath family had only their faith in God to cling onto—a faith that would be violated if the Oakland Hospital removed Jahi from life support.

Their hope in Jahi’s miraculous recovery should not be something that other people can take away. As long as Jahi’s heart is still beating, her parents have every right to decide the proper medical steps to be carried out. Why? Because their religion, their lifestyle, their faith, tells them Jahi is not dead. In their eyes, taking her off the ventilator would be much like committing murder.

Complications that result from surgeries are always a risk, and Jahi’s mother was fully aware of that fact when she persuaded Jahi to carry out the common tonsil surgery. She had placed her daughter under the care of the medical staff, trusting that they would make the best possible decisions. Yet, the unexpected outcome of the surgery has left her feeling nothing but regret. The hospital associates had failed her once; thus it should be the right of Jahi’s family to decide how they should continue. Then, whether or not Jahi recovers, her mother can live on knowing that she did everything she could to fight by her daughter’s side.

It is true that much of the medical world sees Jahi as having little to no chance of recovery. But it is also true that there are people in this world who don’t consider Jahi dead. Private funds can be made available so that the hospital and insurance companies don’t have to pay for the parent’s decision. Therefore, let those who love and care for Jahi most decide on her future.