Jahi McMath was like any normal 13-year-old girl when she arrived at Children's Hospital Oakland for a routine tonsillectomy on December 9, 2013. However, complications following the surgery arose while McMath was resting in a recovery room. The child went into cardiac arrest after she began hemorrhaging from her mouth for several hours. On December 12th, McMath was declared brain dead by medical staff.

Can The Body Survive Without A Working Brain?

The days following the incident have evolved into one of the most captivating cases in modern medical times. McMath's family is currently involved in a legal battle with the hospital over whether to keep her on long-term life support. Hospital staff members have stated they cannot authorize long-term life support for a person who has been declared brain dead. McMath's family believes that she still shows signs of life and should have feeding and breathing tubes inserted in order to keep her body systems functioning. The family also believes that McMath can possibly still make a full recovery and does not want to take the child off life support due to their religious beliefs. A court ruling has ordered McMath to remain on life support at least through January 7th.

A Frightening Medical History

The Jahi McMath case is reminiscent of other cases involving similar circumstances. Terri Shiavo, whose family has voiced their support for McMath's family, was on life support for fifteen years and had her feeding tube removed in 2005 after a court ruling declared that she was in a vegetative state and beyond recovery. Karen Ann Quinlan, who died in 1985 from pneumonia, lived in a persistent vegetative state for ten years and miraculously survived for nine of those years after a New Jersey court ordered her to be taken off a respirator. In the case of Sun Hudson, an infant in Texas had his breathing tube removed against the mother's wishes after the hospital claimed that the child would not likely survive due to a typically fatal disorder of the skeletal system.

Where Do We Go Now?

On January 15, 2014, Children's Hospital released McMath's body back to her mother. McMath is now on life support in another medical facility. While many people support McMath's mother's quest to keep her daughter alive, others are pressuring her to pull the plug. This begs the questionz: when does someone really die? If her brain is dead but her body still functions, does this mean she is not a corpse? What signs of recovery can we hope for, or is her mother only prolonging the inevitable?

The case of Jahi McMath will likely continue to be a heated topic in the debate over whether a person should be kept on long-term life support due to their physical state. President Obama's Affordable Care Act will likely result in the creation of laws that mandate all US states to follow a standard procedure when it comes to administering long-term life support for patients.
About The Author:
Keith Adams is an executive director for an international organization devoted to improving the quality of medical care for patients and physicians by providing knowledge about how ACOs affect healthcare as well as other healthcare models.

About Image: This undated file photo provided by the McMath family and Omari Sealey shows Jahi McMath. - AP PHOTO/COURTESY OF MCMATH FAMILY AND OMARI SEALEY