Two tragic cases, marring the joy of this holiday season, underscore our legal system’s difficulty in confronting that most basic of bioethical issues: When is death?
Thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath on Dec. 9, 2013, underwent a tonsillectomy at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital and Research Center to cure her sleep apnea. After extensive bleeding, she suffered cardiac arrest and, by Dec. 13, a neurologist unassociated with the original surgery declared her brain dead. The hospital reported the death to the local coroner and doctors advised the parents of their intent to disconnect the ventilator. The parents immediately hired an attorney and sought and were granted an injunction from Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo.
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