Readers React: Helping families cope with ‘brain death’ and loss

To the editor: When I was interviewed by Sandy Banks for her Jan. 4 column, “Clash of science and faith,” I noted that the job of a bioethicist is to “sort things out.” My recommendation was to have a team help the family of Jahi McMath focus on “saying goodbye instead of holding on,” and that position hasn’t changed, even with tests that may show the teenager has some brain activity despite a judge’s finding earlier this year of brain death. (“Attorney seeks reversal of ‘brain death’ ruling for Jahi McMath,” Oct. 2)

When I council families of “brain dead” patients, we discuss the sanctity of life versus the quality of life. Clearly, medical science does not know everything about brain death; however, in cases like McMath’s, quality of life has to be included in the conversation, even if the family believes in miracles or if there is some evidence of cerebral blood flow and electrical activity.

Loss of a “whole” integrated functioning person should be considered by a judge prior to reversing a brain-death ruling.

Richard Boudreau, Marina del Rey


The writer, also an attorney, is a member of the faculty at Loyola Marymount University’s Bioethics Institute.

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