Brain-death, PVS, and Medical misdiagnoses

By Dave Andrusko

Jahi McMath

Jahi McMath

Few topics intrigue me more than why “trends” develop, or, better put, why “givens” that have gone essentially unchallenged suddenly begin to lose their authority.

We’ve written about many of them at NRL News Today, including the ever-so-gradual-acknowledgement found in corners of the Media Establishment that aborting a child who has been diagnosed with a “fatal anomaly” is not automatically a good decision for parents or the child.

Likewise, as an article in the Seattle Times Wednesday illustrates, “More families now challenging doctors’ brain-death diagnoses.”

The caption under the accompanying photo illustrates one major reason why:

Anahita Meshkin, who has been in a coma for eight years and had been declared brain dead, lies in bed and is hooked up to machines at her care facility in Walnut Creek, Calif., on May 10. Doctors now say she is not brain dead.

The other obvious explanation is Jahi McMath, the Oakland, California, teen who was declared brain-dead in 2013 after complications from tonsil surgery. Her family fought back and eventually, a judge allowed Jahi’s family to remove her to a facility in New Jersey. Her family insists she was never brain dead in the first place and continues to show progress.

The family’s attorney, Chris Dolan, “has become an unlikely leader in a growing resistance to the medical establishment’s long-standing determination that the loss of brain activity equals death,” according to reporter David Debolt.

To be sure, the number is not great, but there has been an “uptick.” Of late the most well publicized case is Israel Stinson. Debolt explains

In a recent case, doctors at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center in California declared 2-year-old Israel Stinson brain-dead when he went into cardiac arrest after an asthma attack, according to court records.

His parents, Jonee Fonseca and Nathaniel Stinson, have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to keep the toddler hooked up to a ventilator, which is still being fought in court. The family’s attorney said they did not want to comment on the case.

“We believe we should have the last say, not a government building or not a corporation. We believe our son is still alive. That should be our choice,” Stinson said in an online video asking for a hospital to admit their son.

This issue is separate but related to the whole issue of how patients with severe brain injuries are treated , or not treated. As we’ve posted just this week, more and more cases have cropped up of people who’d suffered devastating brain injuries–and diagnosed as being in a “persistent vegetative state”–regaining consciousness.

We reported on a story last weekend on CBS Sunday Morning of just such a patient–Dylan Rizzo–and of how he was saved because of his parent’s faithfulness and a neuro-psychologist at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

“As many as 40% of individuals who have been diagnosed with vegetative state, actually retain some conscious awareness,” said Joseph Giacino. “That’s a fairly alarming number.”

All of these “re-thinkings” are welcomed.

So is the gradual re-thinking taking place about abortion.