Jahi McMath Tonsillectomy – Making Things Worse

jahi mcmathThere’s a tragic story in the news about a young teenager from California who went in for a tonsillectomy to relieve her sleep apnea and died after complications from the surgery. A perusal of the Wikipedia article suggests that about 1 in 15,000 surgeries of this nature result in mortality.

After the surgery she started to bleed and despite transfusions and attempts to stop the bleeding she eventually died. She is currently on life support and receiving intravenous fluids. A pair of doctors not affiliated with the hospital declared Jahi McMath dead and the hospital wants to remove the machinery but the parents went to court to prevent such a move.

They want an independent doctor to examine the girl and a judge agreed. So, for now, McMath will remain on life support. It is almost certain that the independent doctor will confirm that she is dead at which point the family will have to make a decision.

It is not uncommon for hospitals to keep people on life support for a few days to allow the family to accept the tragedy. McMath was declared dead on December 12 and the hospital informed the family this past Thursday, Dec 19, that they wished to remove life support.

The judge in question issued a statement suggesting that the restraining order was applied to give the family time to gain peace of mind and hoped the situation would be resolved by Christmas.

I think everyone would agree the situation is tragic. That everyone would understand the hospital can’t keep McMath on life support indefinitely, particularly as the insurance will not pay for it. I think everyone understands the family’s grief and unwillingness to accept the death.

I’ve never been in this situation but I suspect a number of my readers have had to make such a decision for a family member.

In this case I suspect the family will file a lawsuit and attempt to keep McMath on life support even after the next doctor comes to the same conclusion. I think this would be a terrible mistake. They would then spend the next fifteen years of their life coming to visit the corpse of their daughter and eventually suffer the same grief again when life support was finally removed. See the Terri Schiavo case.

They will end up paying lawyers a lot of money and unless some significant malpractice issue comes up they will bankrupt themselves for nothing.

So, what’s the point of my blog? Be prepared. Make your wishes known. Appoint someone you trust to make the decision for you. Family members who suffer such a loss will not always make good decisions. As bad as a situation might be, poor decisions can make it worse.

As for me? No life support. No heroic measures. No life prolonging measures.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

8 thoughts on “Jahi McMath Tonsillectomy – Making Things Worse

  1. I belive that she should stay on life support for at least a few eeks to see if she gets better the hospital owes that to the family I believe something went very wrong and they did not take care of her the way she should of been if the hospital would of been more pro active I believe she would not be on life support and would be at home with her family where every 13 year should be I am on Moms side all the way!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thank you for the comment, Someone.

      What evidence do you have to support your belief that they did not take care of her the way she should have been? And, if they didn’t that will be part of the investigation that is sure to come regardless of whether Jahi is on life support or not.

      I understand it’s a terrible situation but she is not going to get better. She’s dead. Her brain is gone. Each day on life support is another day of agony for the family, another day before they can start healing.

      What do you mean by a few weeks? Three weeks? A month? A year? What’s the cutoff point for you? At the end of that the result is the same.


      • I don’t think we should have the power to take a life that we didn’t create. Every decision in favor of sustaining or depleting her life should be given to those who made that life possible. I can agree that based on the opinions of the experts who exert a natural point of reason, sustaining her life seems futile, but spiritually, the possibilities are endless. Jahi Mcmath still has a heartbeat and as long as that’s present, there IS still life, regardless to what we believe would better serve her family or the insurance company that wants to save a few dollars. As humans, we are often afflicted with a self-centered disposition which limits our acceptance of the contradictory desires and perceptions of those around us. You and so many others may feel the Mcmath family’s fight to preserve the life of their loved one is foolish, but your thoughts are just that…yours. Allow them to decide their “own” fate and with patience and prayer, stand behind their decision. If in the end the result is death, then Jahi’s family will find peace in the reality that they did everything they could to bring her back, instead of allowing the opinion and or advice of those around them, decide the outcome. I can only imagine the guilt her mother must feel. This tragedy is the result of that very thing…had she not taken the advice of others, her daughter would not be comatose in a hospital bed, on life support.

        • Thank you for the comment, Lynn.

          I understand you think you are supporting the family but I’m of the opinion that what you advocate is disastrous for them.

          Your advice will lead them to years of horror coming to visit a corpse when they could be leading their lives.

          You are correct that it is not my decision to make. What I advocate is in the best interest of the family. What you advise is horror.

          I have no trouble sleeping.


  2. The hospital DOCTOR must have been negligent – how MANY thousands surgery’s have they performed?
    Did they administer too much Anesthesia? guess what happens when too much Anesthesia? BRAIN DEATH
    The STAFF must have been incompetent when she started bleeding and like I have read they ttok too long.
    the hospital will pay …..

    • Thank you for the comment Lisa,

      Statistical about 1 in 15,000 tonsillectomies end in mortality, generally because of unstoppable bleeding related to the surgery.

      It is certainly possible there was medical malfeasance but it is also possible that everything was done properly and this was a terrible tragedy.

      I have no evidence one way or the other. Therefore I’m not willing to accuse the hospital staff of negligence.

      In either case, what does your comment have to do with my post? I wrote that it was better to take McMath off life support now, rather than prolong the suffering of the family.


  3. it was not just a tonsilectomy. it was a 2 other procedures as well. and ALL surgeries have risks. The family is keeping the hospital from releasing info because of privacy laws. the truth will come out at some point. i am curious who is paying for all the care and lawyers for this poor child. medical costs are a nightmare and continuing to keep her on life support will not be paid for by insurance after so long.

    • Thank you for the information and comment, Jen.

      Reading between the lines of the hospital statement I suspected that might be the case but I don’t have any evidence to prove that so I didn’t mention it.

      The family is raising money through donations because insurance won’t pay. I would imagine that taxpayers will have to eventually foot at least some of the bill.

      The situation continues to get worse and worse.

      Thanks for the comment and come back any time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *