The Current

Debating guidelines for declaring someone brain dead

In an article published in the McGill Journal of Law and Health, Jacquelyn Shaw argues that guidelines for declaring people brain dead likely violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A family of a California teen on life-support for a year is legally challenging the doctors' views that their daughter is brain dead. Now a Canadian health policy researcher who's looked at similar cases says Canada's policy of determining whether someone is brain dead could be violating the Charter rights of patients. 

Inside a U.S .hospital room, Nailah Winkfield speaks to her 13-year-old daughter, Jahi McMath. Jahi is brain dead. Or at least that's the doctors' determination.She first checked into hospital last December, for routine tonsil surgery. Rare complications followed, and it was just days later that "brain death" was declared.

But in the video above, Jahi seems to respond to her mother's commands... moving her hands. Moving her feet. Jahi's family has kept her on life support for what will soon be an entire year since that tonsil surgery. They've also mounted teir own legal challenge against the doctors classification of Jahi. They believe that Jahi is still there. Still aware.

"As long as her heart is still pumping, she is still alive. She's moving a lot more, she responds to audio and touch, and more compelling evidence is the fact she can move her head and neck".Omari Sealey, Jahi McMath's Uncle

The case has re-ignited the debate over how we define death.

Jacquelyn Shaw is a Freelance health law and policy researcher who has researched brain death-related issues. She was in Halifax.

Dr. Sonny Dhanani is a Pediatric Intensive Care Physician at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and the Chief Medical Officer for Trillium Gift of Life Network. He was in Ottawa.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant.


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