But problems with the commission’s statement persist. Many find that the requirement that every part of the brain be irreversibly dead for death to be pronounced ignores the fact that ancillary parts of the brain are still active after a person has ceased to exist. Other parts of the brain may survive and be detected by scans, hormonal regulations may continue despite the death of other parts of the brain. Are these “residual functions” really signs of life? And what then, is the difference between biological life and sentient life? Where in your brain do you exist? And what makes you alive? Are you alive if you grow? If you menstruate? If you recognize your mother? If you can open your eyes? Or yawn? Others have contested the very term “brain death” because it creates confusion, as though brain death is a stage and not the end. Call it what it is, they say: death.Currently it is up to the courts to decide the fate of Jahi's body (which I find baffling even if I do understand why), to frame it as a religious freedom issue though is just plain wrong. As the author notes, it only became one after-the-fact, "In this new formulation of “natural death,” the sustenance of machines becomes natural." Take away the machines, and all you are left with is death. And sorry to say, I do not agree with receiving any type of state sanctioned "funding" regardless of what the courts determine. Death is death, there is no changing that point of fact.
Cases like Jahi’s are incredibly rare. But they are often fueled by political and religious ideologies that conflict with standard medical practice. State laws, which govern how those ideologies are applied to individual cases, are now at the heart of a series of lawsuits; if her parents can prove she is alive, if they can invalidate the California death certificate, they can return to their home state and receive funding for their daughter’s continued treatment.
But religious actors have found a compelling issue in a young child, her desperate and grief-torn parents rightly skeptical of the hospital and doctors whose treatment has harmed their daughter. If the Jahi case results in California rescinding the girl’s death certificate, we may see a broader political push for religious exemptions from certain kinds of deaths. The ramifications are hard to predict. In January, a California judge issued a tentative ruling that allows Jahi’s family the chance to prove that she is alive. Either they will have to present medical information that contests Jahi’s brain-death diagnosis, meaning her brain death was a diagnostic error, or they will have to show that brain death is not death. Either would will be, for the family of Jahi McMath, some kind of miracle.Although I am well aware that I have a very jaded view on death and dying as a whole and my grieving process is, what I will call, stunted, I think the author does ask a thought-provoking question that surrounds death as a whole. So much so that I may buy the book as it is an area that I personally haven't examined with much thought.
What Neumann found is that death in contemporary America is much more complicated than we think. Medical technologies and increased life expectancies have changed the very definition of medical death. And although death is our common fate, it is also a divisive issue that we all experience differently. What constitutes a good death is unique to each of us, depending on our age, race, economic status, culture, and beliefs. What’s more, differing concepts of choice, autonomy, and consent make death a contested landscape, governed by social, medical, legal, and religious systems.
Can a Brain-Dead Teen Claim Religious Freedom? The Case of Jahi McMath - The Daily Beast