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August 2014

The Meaning of Brain DeathA Different View

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Critical Care Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Division of Medical Ethics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(8):1215-1216. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.2272

The recent case of Jahi McMath, a teenager in Oakland, California, was extensively publicized in the news media and led to prominent commentaries in medical journals on the meaning of brain death.1,2 McMath is a 14-year-old adolescent who in December 2013 experienced devastating neurological damage following complications from a tonsillectomy. McMath met criteria for the diagnosis of brain death. She continues, however, to receive mechanical ventilation, tube feedings, and supportive care at an undisclosed location, with her treatment financed by private funds, according to the most recent reports.

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