By now, presumably everybody has heard about the tragic Jahi McMath case. This non story has already received too much coverage in the media. Now the question becomes: why? Why did it become such a national media obsession?
Part of the blame clearly lies with Christopher Dolan, the San Francisco attorney the family hired to pursue its case against Oakland Children’s Hospital and Research Center. Clearly, Mr. Dolan is primarily interested in cultivating headlines and focusing attention on himself. Actual facts and medical realities are of little to no interest to him. Worse, rather that working with the family in an honest and ethical manner, he filled them right from the start with false hope.
Who any attorney could presume to be more medically knowledgeable than multiple specialists, not to mention the Alameda County Coroner, is beyond me. Yet he continues to dismiss multiple expert medical opinions that Jahi did, in fact, die following her surgery. By doing so, he has done society in general a great injustice by confusing the distinction between a person being in a coma and a person being brain dead, like Jahi.
The two terms are not interchangeable. When a person is in a coma, electrical activity is present in the brain at some level. This, even minimal, brain activity keeps the door open for an eventual recovery. But when a person is brain dead, there is no electrical activity present in the brain. This absence of electrical activity means but one thing: the person is physically dead as well as neurologically dead. Recovery from this state is impossible.
The media bears much of the blame by buying into Mr. Dolan’s apparent narcissism. Editors need to take a long look at themselves. Why? Managing editors possess the authority to control which stories get covered, and to what extent, and which stories get killed, or ignored. The national media did not need to continue to follow this story past the first few days, yet they did. Why?
The unnamed facility that agreed to accept Jahi’s technically dead body is far from innocent. What their justification is for getting involved is beyond me. The fact is that, had every facility contacted by the family turned them down, this sad story would have ended before the end of 2013. Yet the story is still on going. This is not right.
Megham Daum, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece sums this aspect up quite well. Similarly, a companion staff article, posted three days earlier, summarizes the medical ethics aspects of the case very concisely.
Tomorrow, in Part 2 I intend to share my personal thoughts and perspectives about this sad case.