Jahi McMath is continuing to spark debate over whether or not she is alive. The California teenager, who went into cardiac arrest last month and was pronounced brain dead three days later, is sparking a major right to life debate after her family refused to remove the tubes keeping their daughter alive. Over the weekend, a video posted by the “Keep Jahi McMath on Life Support” Facebook page shows the girl’s feet and toes responding when they are rubbed with ice. The movement comes in the left foot and right big toe area, after which a woman declares “I don’t understand how a brain-dead person can do this.”
However, neurologist Dr. Neal E. Slatkin said spontaneous movements are common in brain-dead patients and that McMath is not alive. He believes the movements could simply be irritable nerves or muscle membranes reacting to the cold. “She’s brain dead. She has no thought,” said Slatkin. “She has no ability to control or interact with anything in her environment. She’s completely dependent on machines and forever will be.”
Children’s Hospital Oakland wanted her taken off the ventilator keeping her alive, but the family wanted the tubes inserted so she could be transferred to another hospital that would care for her. However, the hospital said they couldn’t “ethically” perform surgery on a dead body.
Earlier this month, the family won won a court battle to have feeding and breathing tubes inserted in their daughter. She was moved to a undisclosed facility three weeks ago that is within driving distance of the Oakland area.
“Who wants to know the date and the time their child would die?” said her mother, Nailah Winkfield. She also believes her daughter is not dead because she obtained statements from a pediatrician that said her daughter responded to her grandmother’s voice with squirming movements. However, a spokesman for the hospital said that any signs of life McMath shows is simply an involuntary muscle reflex and that organ failure is inevitable.