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California family fights hospital after botched surgery

The parents of a teenage girl who has been declared brain dead continue to fight with a California hospital to keep the girl on ventilators. The teenager was declared brain dead after a routine tonsillectomy gave way to cardiac arrest. It is not clear what went wrong during or after the surgery or why she experienced complications, but the end result is that she has experienced what the hospital is calling “whole brain death” in which all functions of the brain and brain stem have ceased. The girl’s family believes that she can still recover and are attempting to have her transferred to another facility.

One of the things that sticks out most about this case is the lack of understanding between the hospital staff and the family. The family continues to fight for their daughter while the hospital has publicly referred to the teen as a “dead body”. Setting the medical facts aside for a moment, consider what it must feel like for the family to hear that repeated to the public and see it in the press as they struggle through this difficult time.

Considering the high likelihood that this fatality occurred as the result of a mistake or negligence on the part of the hospital, it would perhaps be wiser to stay quiet and limit any further emotional distress caused by this death. At the same time, being more understanding to the family and offering some behind-the-scenes compassion could go a long ways towards finding a resolution to this stalemate. 

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Jahi McMath’s family battles hospital over brain-dead girl,” Jan. 1, 2014.

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