Experts: Brain-Dead Girl May Not Be 'Alive'

Doctors want another assessment in unique US case
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2014 4:10 PM CDT
Experts: Tests on Brain-Dead Girl Don't Make Her 'Alive'
Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath, speaks about her daughter during a news conference at a law office Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Brain-dead or not brain-dead? The question of Jahi McMath's health status has drifted into unknown territory now that she's been hooked up to machines for nearly eleven months, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Jahi, declared brain dead after a disastrous tonsillectomy in December, was found by five experts in the last month to have some brain activity; the declarations they filed in court reference MRI and EEG tests. One neurologist noted in his declaration that Jahi is menstruating, which requires brain function, reports: "Corpses do not menstruate," he writes. But other experts say the tests are incomplete or just plain wrong. "He points out some very serious flaws," says a health expert of comments by Paul Fisher, the court-appointed neurologist who assessed Jahi over the winter; the court asked Fisher to review the latest findings.

His take: A bedside exam is a necessary part of the determination of brain death, and the new filings do not indicate that such an exam has occurred. As for videos shared by the family's lawyer that seem to show Jahi responding to her mother's commands, they "are not substitutes for in person, neurological examination," he asserts. Fisher is asking that another, neutral doctor look at Jahi, while others marvel at how the case could redefine the brain-death debate. "Right now, it is one of the very strangest" cases in recent memory, says a lawyer. "No question." Experts believe that no other patient declared brain-dead has gone through a second round of testing. (For more, read why the McMath's lawyer believes the determination of brain death has changed.)

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