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“Brain Death,” “Dead,” and Parental Denial: The Case of Jahi McMath



This section provides reactions to current and emerging issues in bioethics.



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1. Caplan, AL, McCartney, JJ, Sisti, D. (eds.). The Case of Terri Schiavo. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 2006.

2. California Codes Health and Safety Codes, section 7180.

3. Goodale G. Jahi McMath case: Court taps specialist to assess teen declared brain dead. The Christian Science Monitor 2013 Dec 23:1.

4. Elias P. Judge ruled Jahi McMath can be taken off life support. Huffpost 2013 Dec 24:1; available at (last accessed 26 Dec 2013).

5. Greenberg G. Lights out: A new reckoning for brain death. The New Yorker 2014 Jan 15; available at (last accessed 17 Jan 2014).

6. Byrne PA, O’Reilly S, Quay P. Brain death: An opposing viewpoint. JAMA 1990;242:1985–90.

7. See note 6 Byrne 1990, at 1988.

8. President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research. Defining Death: A Report on the Medical, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Determination of Death. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office; 1981.

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10. National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Determination of Death Act 1980; available at of Death Act summary (last accessed 24 Jan 2014).

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13. In re Eichner, AD2d, 637 E, Supreme Court: Appellate Division, Second Department (28 Mar 1980).

14. Eichner v. Dillon, 52 N.Y. 2d 363, 420 N.E. 2d 64 (1981).

15. Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Death. A definition of irreversible coma. JAMA 1968;205:337–40.

16. Winslow, JB. The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death and the Danger of Precipitate Interments and Dissections. London: George Fauker; 1748.

17. “Dr. Paul Byrne says that Jahi is not dead; pray that the hospital does not kill her today.” Abyssus Abyssum Invocat/Deep Calls to Deep; available at -n (last accessed 26 Dec 2013), at 2.

18. President's Commission for the study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral research, Defining Death: A Report on the Medical, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Determination of Death. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office; 1981, at 58.

19. In re Quinlan, 70 N.J. 10, 355 A.2d 647 (NJ 1976).

20. In re Cruzan, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).

21. See note 20, at 57.

22. See note 20, at 66.

23. See note 20, at 58.

24. Truog, RD, Robinson, WM. Role of brain death and the dead-donor rule in the ethics of organ transplantation. Critical Care Medicine 2003;31:236–9.

25. Veatch, RM. The impending collapse of the whole-brain definition of death. Hastings Center Report 1993;23(4):1824.

26. Shewmon, DA. Chronic “brain death”: Meta-analysis and conceptual consequences. Neurology 1998;51:1538–45.

27. New Jersey Declaration of Death Act. New Jersey Statutes Ann. Title 26, sec. 6A-1 to 6A-8 (1991).

28. Dolan CB. A personal story of representing Jahi McMath. San Francisco Examiner 2013 Dec 25:1.

29. Brain-dead: Jahi McMath’s family searches for options as life-support cutoff looms. GlobalVille News; available at (last accessed 17 Jan 2014).

30. Mom: Jahi is dead only if her heart stops. CNN 2013 Dec 27; available at (last accessed 9 Jan 2014).

31. (last accessed 17 Jan 2014).

32. Mungin L, Conder C. Jahi McMath's family, Oakland Hospital discussing girl's transfer, CNNHealth. January 3, 2014; available at (last accessed 17 Jan 2014).

33. Brain-dead Florida girl will be sent home on life support. New York Times 1994 Feb 19; available at (last accessed 21 Jan 2014).

34. Paris JJ, Bell AJ, Murphy JJ. Pediatric brain death: Dead is dead. Journal of Perinatology 1995;15:67–70.

35. Orthodox Jews sue to keep brain dead son on life support—DC hospital suing to cease life support; available at orthodox jews sue to keep brain dead son on life-support (last accessed 20 Jan 2014).

36. Collins LM, Thomas L. Jesse loses his battle with brain tumor: Boy dies a month after his parents took him out of hospital. Deseret Morning News 2004 Nov 20:1; available at (last accessed 20 Jan 2014).

37. Alexander KL. Judge delays decision on removing life support. Washington Post 2008 Nov 11:B5; available at (last accessed 20 Jan 2014).

38. Parisi, JE, Kim, RC, Collins, GH, Hilfinger, MF. Brain death with prolonged somatic survival. New England Journal of Medicine 1982;306:1416.

39. Shewmon DA. Chronic “brain death”: meta-analysis and conceptual consequences. Neurology 1998;51:1538–45.

40. Fernandez M. Judge orders hospital to remove pregnant woman from life-support. New York Times 2014 Jan 24:A1.

41. Kwamilele T. Family seeks to move Jahi McMath before new deadline ethical questions against hospital continue to arise. The Post News Group 2014 Jan 2; available at (last accessed 17 Jan 2014).

42. Kubler-Ross E. On Death and Dying. New York: Scribner; 1997.

43. Paris, JJ, Graham, N, Schreiber, MD, Goodwin, M. Has the emphasis on autonomy gone too far? Insights from Dostoevsky on parental decision making in the NICU. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2006;15:147–51.

44. Cardozo, BN. The Nature of the Judicial Process. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 1921.

45. Application of the President and Directors of Georgetown College, Inc. Burger CJ. (Dissent) 331F.2d1010, 118U.S. App. D.C. 90 (1964).

46. Hudson v. Texas Children’s Hospital, 2005 WL49788 (Tex: App-Hous (1 Dist.)).

47. Nicholas B. Hospital ends life support of baby: 1st case of its kind against mom’s wish, in accordance with law. Dallas Morning News 2005 Mar 11:A1.

48. Paris, JJ, Billings, JA, Cummings, BM, Moreland, MP. Howe v. MGH and Hudson v. Texas Children’s Hospital: Two approaches to resolving family-physician disputes in end-of-life care. Journal of Perinatology 2006; 26:726–9.

49. Extension granted to keep Jahi McMath on life support; available at (last accessed 2 May 2014), at 1.

50. Caplan A. The case against care for those who are brain dead. Newsday 2014 Jan 10:A1; available at (last accessed 17 Jan 2014).

51. Szabo L. Ethicists criticize treatment of brain-dead patients. USA Today 2014 Jan 10:A1.

* Due to a printer’s error, M. Patrick Moore, Jr.’s name was changed to M. P. Moore, Jr. in proofs and appeared as such in the version of the article published online ahead of print on July 17, 2014. The error was discovered on the day of online publication and the author’s correct name was reinstated.


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