Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
January 14, 2014
Jahi McMath is a living person
By Paul A. Byrne, M.D.

Jahi is a living person and has been a living person on earth since her conception within her mother. Jahi's heart is beating 100,000 times a day, a rate similar to most persons on earth. Her heart beat is initiated in her heart just like yours and mine. Your heart beat does not begin in your brain either. Jahi's pulse and blood pressure are normal and strong. Jahi digests her food, puts out urine and has bowel movements just like the rest of us. Jahi's temperature is 98 with only a blanket to help keep her warm. Her body metabolism keeps her temperature warm just like yours. Her natural thermostat to control her temperature is in her hypothalamus, which is part of her brain. You have such a thermostat in your brain also.

The only machine used to treat Jahi is a ventilator to push air into her. Jahi pushes the air out. The ventilator is effective only in a living person. The ventilator does not make Jahi's heart beat.

Why does Jahi have to prove she is living? Do you have to prove that you are living? A recent CNS story included a comment about "a complete lack of blood flow to the brain." Of course the result of the test and other tests indicate that Jahi has a serious problem, but does a test that does not demonstrate blood flow to Jahi's brain indicate that Jahi is dead? For an example of someone who had a similar test result, see Zack Dunlap on the Internet. You can see the test showing no blood flow to his brain. Because he had a relative in the ICU, treatment of Zack was continued; Zack can be seen and heard in an interview.

The CNS article includes "absence of any electrical activity of the brain." When I began my study of these issues in 1975, I found a report in the literature of a man who had flat brain waves for 39 days, then made complete recovery. At that time my patient, Joseph, had flat brain waves "consistent with cerebral death." When I read the report, I was astonished. What is the neurologist reporting? I continued to treat Joseph. Eventually he did get off the ventilator; in school his grades were excellent and Joseph participated in sports. Joseph now is married and has 3 children. Did absence of electrical activity on the EEG indicate that Joseph or Jahi is no longer on earth? Joseph and Jahi are living persons on earth.

The CNS story includes "absence of cranial nerve response." It is only a few, not all, reflexes of the brain stem that are tested. An example of the difference between a reflex and a function is a reflex of the leg is demonstrated when the knee jumps when tapped with a reflex hammer. The reflex is present, but a function of the leg is to walk.

The only function of the brain that is clinically evaluated is the "ability of the patient to breathe on her own." Yes the vital activity of Jahi's breathing is supported by a ventilator. The apnea test was done by the consulting neurologist, who took away the ventilator for 9 minutes. Try holding your breath for even one minute. No breath to Jahi for 9 minutes! Multiple times! During that time carbon dioxide increased in Jahi's brain. That causes the brain to swell. The test was done for Jahi to make her prove that she could take a breath on her own. When she did not take a breath, that confirmed that the ventilator should be removed. Imagine being unconscious and not fed for weeks and having to prove you could take a breath or that would be the signal to finalize your existence on earth.

I have been at the bedside of Jahi. Jahi is alive. Those who claim Jahi is dead are not using common sense. Jahi has serious problems, but she is not dead.

Jahi was starved for 3 weeks. Yes, during those 3 weeks Jahi was given sugar and salt in her vein, but no vitamins, no protein and no fat. How could she get better? Jahi needed the tracheostomy so she could be treated outside of an acute care hospital. To write "there would be no moral obligation for a hospital or physician to perform any procedure on a corpse such as placing a feeding tube or trying to stabilize the bodily functions that are kept working using mechanical means" is sad, shallow and misleading. Jahi is a living person that continues to have the hundreds and thousands of reactions, known and unknown, continuing in her, similar to what is going on in you and you. And, a machine is not doing any of these.

Does Jahi belong in a body bag because she can't show that she can take a breath deep enough for someone to see? Should Jahi's blanket be called a pall? (Pall is the name of the cover that is placed over the coffin a Catholic Funeral Mass.) Should Jahi have been transported in a hearse? Jahi is alive with a beating heart, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, albeit on a ventilator. Her food is digested, absorbed and having bowel movements. How long Jahi will live on earth is not known, and it isn't known for any of us.

Once again, declarations that a patient is "brain-dead" of themselves do not mean the patient is not alive. The term "brain-dead" is a very equivocal one and opens the door to practices, which are unjust and thus immoral. "Brain-dead" is not a synonym for real death. The so-called new questions "brain-death" raises have been answered in the past on the basis of sound Christian moral principle and apply to Jahi and Marlise.

See: www.lifeguardianfoundation.org for more information and Opt-out Medical Cards

© Paul A. Byrne, M.D.

 

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Paul A. Byrne, M.D.

Dr. Paul A. Byrne is a Board Certified Neonatologist and Pediatrician. He is the Founder of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, MO. He is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at University of Toledo, College of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Fellowship of Catholic Scholars... (more)

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