Brain Death

Astonishing: 20% of people thought to be in vegetative state are not


A neuroscientist has found that at least 20 percent of people thought to be in a vegetative state are completely aware of what’s happening around them and to them, but they are unable to respond or move. This means that people thought to be in comas or a ‘vegetative state’ are suffering horrible abuses – being starved and murdered like Terri Schiavo – all while being completely aware of what’s being done to them.

Dr. Adrian Owen, the author of Into the Gray Zone, is a neuroscientist who has been studying how people who are thought to be unaware — often because they cannot answer commands such as “squeeze my hand” — are actually very aware. He asked the question, “could somebody command follow with their brain?”

READ: Man awakens from 12-year-long coma

By scanning the brains of conscious individuals and asking them yes or no questions, he took note of the areas of their brains that were activated with blood flow. Rather than answer yes or no, these healthy individuals were asked to think of playing a game of tennis if the answer to the question was yes and to think of moving through their own home if the answer was no. Each of those thoughts uses a different part of the brain and doctors could watch which part became activated when asking the questions.

Then Owen tried this with hundreds of people thought to be unresponsive and vegetative. What he found was astonishing. An astounding one in five people who were unable to physically respond to command prompts in the past were able to respond to them with their brains, proving that they were not unresponsive or unaware as previously believed.

“What we’re doing is returning the ability to communicate to some patients who seem to have lost that forever,” said Owen. “[…] I can still remember exactly what it felt like the first time we saw a patient that we thought was in a vegetative state activate their brain in the scanner. The patient’s name was Kate. Nobody would have predicted that we would have seen brain activity in response to asking a patient to do something and when we first saw it it was absolutely astonishing. Before we made that discovery, nobody bothered to look at any of these patients.”

What he discovered will change the way doctors and family members treat people who are living like Terri Schiavo did. Rather than pass them off as people who are unable to live or unworthy of living and assuming these people would rather die and then starving them to death, doctors will actually be able to ask people how they feel, if they are in pain, and what they want for their lives. They will no longer be locked inside their minds, forced to watch as well-meaning doctors and family members make life or death decisions for them. They will no longer have to sit in pain unable to express it. And the lives of people around the world who are currently written off as “vegetative” will be opened to a whole new way of living. Because that’s what they have always been – living human beings worthy of the best that medical care and love can give them.

Good News/Bad News about Alzheimer’s

Good News/Bad News about Alzheimer’s

First the good news:

Alzheimer’s disease is a currently irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

However, a new study “Estimation of lifetime risks of Alzheimer’s disease dementia using biomarkers for preclinical disease” shows that “most people with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease will not develop Alzheimer’s dementia during their lifetimes”, according to a mathematical analysis based on several large, long-term studies.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association , the term “preclinical” refers to “a newly defined stage of the disease reflecting current evidence that changes in the brain may occur years before symptoms affecting memory, thinking or behavior can be detected by affected individuals or their physicians”.

Although biomarkers are still being investigated and validated, this new study can be reassuring to many people worrying that, for example, forgetting where they left their car keys means the beginning of Alzheimer’s.

While the cause of Alzheimer’s is still a mystery, research on the disease is massive and ongoing. Currently, there are drug and non-drug treatments that may help with both thinking and behavior symptoms. There is hope.


With the many negative stories in major media about Alzheimer’s, it is no wonder that people are so afraid of it.

As Deakin University Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone says in her book “Alzheimer’s disease, media representations and the Politics of Euthanasia-Constructing Risk and Selling Death in An Ageing Society”  :

“Alzheimer’s has been portrayed as the ‘disease of the century’ that is poised to have a near catastrophic impact on the world’s healthcare system as the population ages…

This representation of the disease—along with other often used terms such as ‘living dead’, a ‘funeral that never ends’ and a ‘fate worse than death’—places Alzheimer’s as a soft target in the euthanasia debate because it plays to people’s fears of developing the disease and what it symbolizes. It positions Alzheimer’s as something that requires a remedy; that remedy increasingly being pre-emptive and beneficent euthanasia.” (Emphasis added)

While countries like Belgium and Holland have long allowed lethal injections for people with Alzheimer’s , this is forbidden in the US-for now. However, assisted suicide groups are now trying new “living wills” stating that if or when the person is diagnosed “with Alzheimer’s or another incurable dementing disease”, he or she refuses not only a feeding tube but also even assistance with oral eating and drinking to end their lives.

Compassion and Choices, the well-funded former Hemlock society, has long promoted VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking) as a legal alternative to assisted suicide in states without assisted suicide laws. But at the present time, people who cannot make medical decisions because of  conditions like Alzheimer’s cannot sign an advance directive.

So influential major media outlets like the New York Times often publish articles such as the May 30, 2018 article titled “Alzheimer’s? Your Paperwork May Not Be in Order”that quote Dr. Judith Schwarz:

“People should at least understand what the normal process of advanced dementia is about,” Dr. Schwarz said. “Feeding tubes are not the issue….Opening your mouth when a spoon approaches is a primitive reflex that persists long after you’ve lost the ability to swallow and know what to do with what’s put in your mouth.” (Emphasis added)

Dr. Schwarz’s advice?

“Complete her organization’s Advance Directive for Receiving Oral Food and Fluids in the Event of Dementia.”

But what Dr. Schwarz and others do not want to talk about is the often tragic reality of deliberate death by starvation and dehydration.

Although media articles portray VSED as a gentle, peaceful death, a 2018 Palliative Practice Pointers article in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society  titled Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking” states:

“VSED is an intense process fraught with new sources of somatic and emotional suffering for individuals and their caregivers…The most common symptoms encountered after starting VSED are extreme thirst, hunger, dysuria (painful urination due to concentrated urine NV),  progressive disability, delirium, and somnolence.” (Emphasis added)

Most chillingly, the authors state:

 “Because an individual with delirium may forget his or her intention and ask for drinks of water, caregivers will struggle with the need to remind the incapacitated individual of his or her own wishes. This possibility should be anticipated and discussed with the individual in advance. While reminding the individual of his or her prior intentions may feel like coercion, acquiescing to requests for water will prolong the dying process for someone who has clearly articulated the desire to hasten death.” (Emphasis added)

The authors also state that if the patient’s suffering becomes severe, “proportionate palliative sedation and admission to inpatient hospice should be considered”. This is not the so-called peaceful death at home within two weeks that people envision with VSED.

Lastly, on the legal requirement of  a cause on the death certificate, the authors state:

“the clinician may consider including dehydration secondary to the principle illness that caused the individual’s intractable suffering. Although VSED is a self–willed death (as stopping life support might also be)use of the word “suicide” on death certificates in this context is discouraged because in incorrectly suggests that the decision for VSED stemmed from mental illness rather than intolerable suffering.” (Emphasis added)

So, like assisted suicide, the real cause of death is basically falsified with the rationale that the deliberate stopping of eating and drinking to hasten death is just another legalwithdrawal of treatment decision like a feeding tube.


Years ago, my mother told me that she never wanted to be a burden on her family.

I never told my children that-especially when they were teenagers and already thought I was a burden to their lifestyles! Instead, I told them that the “circle of life” includes caring for each other at all ages and stages. Such caring also eliminates future guilt and leaves a sense of pride that we did the best we could for each other during our lives.

When my mother developed Alzheimer’s in the late 1980s (and later terminal thyroid cancer), a friend asked if I was going to feed her. At the time, my mother was fully mobile and able to get ice cream out of the freezer and eat it. I was shocked and offended.

“Do you want me to tackle her?!” I asked my friend.

“Oh, no!”, he answered, “I was talking about a feeding tube later on.”

I told him that my mother would die of her disease, not from deliberate starvation and dehydration.

Near the end of her life, we did spoon feed my mother and she enjoyed it very much before dying peacefully in her sleep.

For decades now, I have enjoyed caring for many people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias both personally and professionally.  I can attest that such people can be sweet and funny and as well as difficult at times.

Just like the rest of us!

The ‘Miracle Boy’ and Problems With the Brain-Death Diagnosis

E. Christian Brugger

Like Jacob Marley, 13-year-old Trenton McKinley was dead. There is no doubt whatever about that. Or so the doctors said.

He had suffered seven skull fractures and traumatic brain injury in a freak vehicle accident last March. His mother reported on Facebook that during emergency surgery he “died four times,” which, I presume, means he flat-lined; “one time,” she said, “for 15 minutes.”

After his heart’s final injection with epinephrine, “he had no brain waves,” including apparently from his brain stem. His eyes were dry and solid black. The doctors concluded — and every media outlet reported — that the boy was “brain-dead.”

When doctors say a patient is “brain-dead,” they mean the patient has suffered the complete and irreversible loss of all brain function, including of the brain stem. The condition is called “whole brain death.”

Ever since the publication of the so-called Harvard brain-death definition in 1968, clinicians the world over have taken brain death to mean human death; so that even if certain bodily functions continue, such as circulation and breathing aided by machines, the person, the living human being, John or Mary, is gone, and what remains is an elaborately functioning corpse the true state of which is being hidden by the effects of medical technology. These individuals are often even issued death certificates (see the case of Jahi McMath).

The doctors were so certain of their diagnosis that his mother signed the paperwork to have his vital organs harvested for donation. Now to qualify for such donation, an individual must have died; this is the meaning of the “dead-donor rule” that prevails in the United States: Only corpses supply vital organs, although some bioethicists in recent decades have called for the lifting of the dead-donor rule.

If, therefore, Trenton’s body was a corpse, removing his heart, lungs, liver, etc. would have been no violation of human dignity. If, however, he were still alive, taking his vital organs would constitute homicide.

Happily, before his organs were harvested, Trenton began to exhibit signs of life: Brain activity resumed; his eye color returned; he regained consciousness, speech and mobility; they took him off the ventilator; and, finally, he went home.

It’s being called a miracle. Perhaps. They certainly occur. But because this same report — “brain-dead” patient recovers consciousness — is increasingly common (see herehere and here), let’s doubt the miracle claim for the sake of argument and look at the situation empirically.


Was Trenton Dead?

One may reasonably ask whether the boy ever was dead. For if he was, then he rose from the dead. But without a miraculous intervention, people do not, indeed cannot, rise from the dead. This is because death by definition is irreversible.

Death is the definitive separation of the spiritual soul from the material body, not just a temporary separation, as seems to be the case in so-called “near-death” experiences. This causes the body to lose irretrievably the integrative functioning proper to a living organism. So the fact that a brain-dead individual wakes up means he was never dead to begin with.


Was Trenton Brain-Dead?

Now, this implies one of two things: Either Trenton was brain-dead but brain death isn’t human death, and brain tissue can regenerate itself even when its entire living substrate is destroyed, and Trenton’s regenerated itself, so dramatically that he is now not only conscious but carrying out fine motor skills like playing basketball; or Trenton was not brain-dead.

The second, it seems, has to be the case. Not because I am confident that all brain-dead individuals are humanly dead, or because I am a better diagnostician than his doctors, but because there is no evidence that brains can recover from total infarction (death).

Neurologists traditionally believed that damaged brain cells never regenerate; but recent studies indicate that some cell regeneration does take place in the human brain, especially in younger persons (under 40 years of age). Moreover, it has long been known that neural tissue has a high degree of “plasticity,” which means when certain regions are destroyed, the functions associated with those regions are not necessarily lost; the brain can reroute the neural connections in such a way that those functions begin to be carried out by other regions.

But there is no evidence whatsoever, at least none to my knowledge, that any brain has ever recovered from total death. So Trenton must not have been brain-dead.


Lessons Learned from Trenton’s Case

This raises an important educational point for all of us: Protocols (confirmatory tests) for diagnosing brain death can be unreliable. Since there are clinical states that mimic brain death, such as certain neurological diseases and metabolic disorders, even a conscientious application of corroborating tests can render a false positive, as obviously happened with Trenton McKinley.

There are two lessons to take away from this:

First, when dealing with a loved one who may be brain-dead, make sure you get multiple corroborating opinions from doctors who are practiced in diagnosing brain death.

Second, make certain the doctors are asking the question of whole brain death. Some clinicians conclude that patients are brain-dead even when there is evidence, however minimal, of brain activity. These patients do not meet the criteria for brain death, and so do not fulfill the commonly accepted conditions for human death. And yet, as soon as they are defined as brain-dead, they become possible candidates for vital organ transplantation, which certainly will result in their deaths.


Is Brain Death Human Death?

But there is one question left standing: Is brain death coextensive with human death? There is a lively debate among Catholic philosophers, scientists and clinicians about this. Someethicists are convinced that brain death is human death and that this has been officially taught by the Catholic Church.

But the doubters are many indeed and include faithful Catholic thinkers and clinicians, some quite eminent, such as Josef Seifert, Alan Shewmon, Robert Spaemann, Dominican Father Nicanor Austriaco, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, David Albert Jones, Charles Camosy, Paul Byrne, Nancy Valko, etc. Each, after examining recent startling evidence suggesting that ventilated brain-dead individuals are living human beings — extremely disabled, to be sure, but not dead bodies — believe there are reasons for doubting the now 50-year-old Harvard definition.

Doubts about the traditional rationale also exist among non-Catholics, some of whom don’t share a Christian view of the dignity of the human body: e.g., Truog, Miller and HalpernHalevy and BrodyYoungner and Arnold, Robert Veatch, Karen Gervais, John Lizza. They, too, doubt that functioning brain-dead bodies should be classified as corpses or dead organisms.

Err on the Side of Life

Listen to the words of the renowned Catholic physician, bioethicist, Georgetown professor and chairman of the G.W. Bush President’s Council on Bioethics, Edmund Pellegrino, who also expressed reasonable doubts, as he quotes the philosopher Hans Jonas, a man whose ideas have exercised a salutary but too-little influence on the development of bioethics in the West:

“Ultimately, the central ethical challenge for any transplantation protocol is to give the gift of life to one human being without taking life away from another. Until the uncertainties and imprecision of the life-death spectrum so clearly recognized by Hans Jonas are dispelled, his moral advice must be our guide for all transplant protocols”:

“We do not know with certainty the borderline between life and death, and a definition cannot substitute for knowledge. Moreover, we have sufficient grounds for suspecting that the artificially supported condition of the comatose [i.e., brain-dead] patient may still be one of life, however reduced — i.e., for doubting that, even with the brain function gone, he is completely dead. In this state of marginal ignorance and doubt the only course to take is to lean over backward toward the side of possible life” (Hans Jonas, “Against the Stream,” in in Philosophical Essays, emphasis added).

The conversation about whether brain death rightly diagnosed constitutes human death needs to make its way from the heady journals of medicine and bioethics to the pews. Catholics who face difficult questions about whether to submit themselves or their loved ones to transplant protocols based upon a judgment of death that’s grounded in a definition that many reasonable Catholic thinkers find doubtful have a right to inform themselves more fully on the question.

E. Christian Brugger is a senior fellow of ethics and the director of the fellows program at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C. 

Surprising Twist to a Good News Story You May Have Seen

TV and social media are reporting a wonderful story about Dr. Eric Voigt and Nicole McGuinness. Dr. Voigt, an ENT physician, was watching the “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” TV show (one of my own semi-guilty pleasures) when he noticed that a woman on the show named Nicole McGuiness seemed to have a suspicious lump in her neck. Alarmed, Dr. Voigt turned to Facebook find her and urge her to get the lump checked. Nicole had her lump checked and it was thyroid cancer. She will be starting treatment soon and is very grateful to Dr. Voigt for his sharp eye.

However, this story has a surprising twist.

Nicole was diagnosed in December 2015 with a glioblastoma cancer in her brain at age 29 and was successfully treated and doing well after almost 3 years.

Ironically, Brittany Maynard was also 29 and had a glioblastoma brain cancer when she decided to move from California to Oregon, a state that legalized assisted suicide in 1997. She and her family moved to Oregon so that Brittany could commit physician-assisted suicide before her symptoms became more severe. The date she chose was November 1, 2014. Brittany also agreed to help Compassion and Choices (the former Hemlock Society) use her story to raise funds with the goal of legalizing physician-assisted suicide throughout the US.

After weeks of widespread and sympathetic media coverage, Brittany did take a doctor-prescribed lethal overdose on her planned date.

Ironically and 5 months later, CBS’s TV show “60 Minutes” reported on an innovative treatment for glioblastoma brain cancer . And, as I wrote in my blog “Could Brittany Maynard Have Been Saved?, this innovative treatment was granted breakthrough status by the FDA in 2016.

No one will never know if Brittany could have been one of the people this treatment could help.


The first target state for Compassion and Choices’ campaign for legalizing assisted suicide after Brittany’s assisted suicide was her home state of California. Both Brittany’s mother and husband went to California to support a physician-assisted suicide bill. Although the bill apparently died in committee, Governor Jerry Brown called a special legislative session to deal with healthcare spending where the assisted suicide bill was resurrected and passed. Governor Brown then signed it into law in October, 2015. Over 100 people died by assisted suicide in the first six months after the law took effect.

However just last month, a California judge overturned the law stating that the California Legislature violated the law by passing it outside of the scope of health care spending which was given as the reason for a special session and thus was unconstitutional.

This decision was quickly appealed by the California attorney general to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld the judge’s decision.

Now Compassion and Choices has filed an appeal on behalf of a palliative care doctor and two terminally ill patients in California to get California’s law back into law.

Stay tuned for further developments.


As a former oncology and hospice nurse, I pray that Nicole has a speedy recovery from her thyroid cancer and I am still saddened by Brittany’s assisted suicide but assisted suicide is not a remedy for cancer.

I remember when just a few decades ago, AIDS was the poster disease for legalizing assisted suicide. Then it became terminal cancer after AIDS became treatable. Now the scary poster disease is Alzheimer’s.

And that’s how the slippery slope works.

Instead, we need realistic hope and real support for people and their families dealing with difficult situations rather than just offering the “solution” of death.



Alfie’s Final Hours: Disturbing New Details

by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D. • May 1, 2018

LIVERPOOL, England ( – Troubling revelations are emerging about the last hours of Alfie Evans, the U.K. toddler who died after a protracted legal battle with Alder Hey Hospital.

According to Benedetta Frigerio, writing in Italian journal La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Alfie — suffering from an undiagnosed brain condition — was showing promising vital signs only two hours before death, but took a downturn after a cocktail of unknown drugs was administered by a hospital nurse.

Two hours before dying, the oxygen saturation was about 98 and Alfie’s [heart]beats were about 160, so much so that Thomas was convinced that they would let him go home soon (as the hospital administration told him on Friday afternoon). Before dying, while Thomas had gone out for a moment, leaving Kate half-awake and another family member in the room, a nurse entered and explained that he would give the baby four drugs (no one knows what) to treat him. After about 30 minutes the saturation dropped to 15. Two hours later Alfie was dead.

Although some have contradicted the account, Frigerio insists the account is accurate. She also claims the ventilator, on which Alfie had been relying for many months, was abruptly removed, causing major stress to his body.

“Being that his lungs were used to being dilated mechanically, the doctors would have to ‘wean him’ so as not to provoke his immediate death,” Frigerio wrote, “which, however, did not happen … .”

She reports that he immediately contracted “a lung infection” after the breathing tubes were removed, prompting his father Thomas to plead for antibiotics — denied by Alder Hey.

The account details the father’s frantic attempts to get oxygen and water to his child, repeatedly denied by the hospital until Thomas pointed out that the end-of-life plan approved by the courts nowhere included an order to deprive Alfie of oxygen or nutrition.

Alfie went without oxygen or water for nine hours before the hospital relented, and for a full 36 hours before being given milk — an exceptionally long time for a 23-month-old, whose bodily needs require food every 3–4 hours.

“Yes, Alfie was left without food for 36 hours, a very long time for such a small child, whose heart had already sustained a huge effort after the violent removal of ventilation without weaning,” Frigerio wrote.

Bruno Dalla Dallapiccola, scientific director of the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù Hospital, which was working to get Alfie transferred to their care, commented at the time that “little Alfie will not be able to last long without the supply of nutritional substances through a drip. Without the nutritional intake, in fact, survival can vary from a few hours to a few days.”

And Italian geneticist Angelo Selicorni remarked two days after Alfie’s breathing tubes were removed, “Detached from the machines the child has [resisted] for hours with no intention of dying,” which “raises some doubts about the ‘terminality’ of his state.”

Other reports reveal Alfie’s undiagnosed brain condition did not appear until after he was admitted to Alder Hey Hospital. David Catron writes in The American Spectator that the toddler’s “initial diagnosis involved a fairly common condition: ‘viral bronchiolitis and a possible prolonged febrile convulsion.’ The still-undiagnosed brain disease that allegedly killed Alfie didn’t appear until after he entered this dangerous hospital.”

Viral bronchiolitis is a common ailment among babies and toddlers, and involves cold-like symptoms, including stuffy nose and congestion, coughing and a fever. With basic care most children recover quickly.

Frigerio also notes Alder Hey failed to change Alfie’s breathing tubes frequently, leading to development of mold inside the tubes bringing oxygen to the child’s lungs.

She ends with a final lament:

This is what Alfie’s martyrdom did, as well as converting many hearts: It forced us to unite against a monster, to look at the brutality of a eugenics system disguised as democracy. A system with unlimited power over the person and considered a civil religion by English politics and justice. A power that crushes so many other fragile lives and spreads a utilitarian mentality that one must begin to fight if one does not want to do the same end.


Alfie Evans’ Plight is Not Unique, Other Children Have Faced the Same Ordeal. Your Child Might be Next


It’s been a titanic battle – UK’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital versus a helpless 23-month-old boy.

Alfie Evans suffers from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. He is not terminal, but that hasn’t stopped the hospital’s aggressive attempts – which some have called perverse, heinous and obscene – to end Alfie’s life.

Lest you think we’re safe in America, our nation’s landscape is already littered with innocent victims.

Throughout a lengthy string of court actions, Alder Hey has opposed Alfie’s parents at every turn. The hospital refused to allow them to transfer Alfie to one of four other hospitals – two each in Germany and Italy – that have offered to take the young patient. Police were posted outside his room, and his parents have been threatened with arrest if they attempt to remove their son from his medical jail cell.

With the world watching, the last couple of days have become a dramatic human tug-of-war. Here are a few highlights:

Friday, April 20
The hospital set what they intended to be Alfie’s execution date: Monday at noon UK time.

The ventilator was removed, but Alfie continued to breath.

Italy granted Alfie citizenship to allow him to travel there for treatment. An air ambulance was at the ready outside the hospital to whisk him and his parents to a military transport, equipped with specialized medical personnel.

The hospital allowed Alfie to have supplemental oxygen and water while another appeal took place.

After another failed appeal, the hospital removed Alfie’s oxygen and refused the parents’ attempt to provide it themselves. Alfie’s father had to resort to giving his son mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the boy’s lips would turn blue.

Pope Francis, Members of Parliament and a physician organization pleaded for the life of the defenseless patient.

Oxygen, food and water were restored during yet another appeal.

It’s a Global Battle

Americans are not immune to tragic situations like Alfie’s – in large part due to “futile care laws.” Medical institutions and associations have quietly lobbied state legislatures to strip parents and family members of their right to make critical healthcare decisions. According to Wesley Smith, consultant to the Patients Rights Council, the states have given these critical rights to “self-appointed, anonymous hospital ethics committees.”

A few examples demonstrate the tragic results.

After a severe asthma attack and cardiac arrest rendered two-year-old Israel Stinson mostly unresponsive, doctors declared him brain dead and recommended removing his ventilator against the wishes of his parents. The parents sought an injunction to prevent Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles from ending their son’s life. Immediately after a judge ruled on behalf of the hospital, they disconnected Israel from his lifeline without even stopping to explain the process to his distraught parents. Israel died.

Israel’s parents didn’t believe their son was brain dead. Why might there be room for doubt when a patient receives such a diagnosis? According to the American Academy of Neurology, the guidelines for brain death determination are “opinion-based.”

Another reason is Jahi McMath.

A routine surgery went horribly wrong at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA. Jahi suffered severe blood loss resulting in a cardiac arrest and interruption of oxygen to her brain. Days later the hospital declared Jahi brain dead and pressured her family to donate her organs.

Eventually Jahi was transported to New Jersey where, with expert help, her parents have provided ongoing care in an apartment. After nearly five years, this so-called brain dead patient has experienced puberty and menstruates, has moved upon request and achieved other important milestones which have persuaded doctors to conclude that her diagnosis was in error. Jahi’s parents are now forced to navigate the court system to have the brain death diagnosis lifted.

What empowered these healthcare facilities to act in such heavy-handed ways against the parents? A California futile care law states “a healthcare provider or healthcare institution may decline to comply with an individual healthcare instruction or healthcare decision that requires medically ineffective healthcare…” provided they believe they’re acting “in good faith” (emphasis mine). “Ineffective” and “in good faith” are left to the interpretation of healthcare providers.

Andrea Clark’s life was in immediate danger when an ethics committee at St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston, TX decided to remove her ventilator and other life support, even though she was conscious and appeared to want to live. A subsequent public battle between the hospital and Andrea’s family eventually persuaded St. Luke’s to continue her care until she peacefully died without a “push” from the institution.

What entitled St. Luke’s raw authority over her family’s wishes and resulted in an attempt to end Andrea’s life? A Texas futile care law which allowed hospitals to end life-sustaining care with an agonizingly short ten-day notice to find another healthcare facility. Thankfully, this law has been amended to significantly limit its danger to vulnerable patients.

We are living in dangerous times, so it’s necessary to be watchful and aware of threats around us. Having said this, many communities are blessed with life-affirming hospitals and healthcare facilities that work hard to defend their patients. We thank them.

I’ll leave you with two action items to help protect at-risk patients.

Please pray for Alfie Evans and his parents. At this writing, Alfie’s life literally hangs in the balance.

Second, find out if your state has passed a futile care law that strips your right to make critical healthcare decisions for a loved one and empowers healthcare facilities to impose life-and-death verdicts based on “quality of life” or “cost-ratio” indicators.

Visit our website to take advantage of free critical-care resources, including a two-part episode DVD of Facing Life Head-On called Surprising Realities of Brain Death and Organ Donation. We were shocked by the revelations uncovered during our research.

Be equipped and prepared to defend life. Note: Bradley Mattes is the President of Life Issues Institute, a national pro-life educational group.

Why your birth-control pill could kill you


  • Hormonal birth-control raises a woman’s risk of having an ischemic stroke
  • This occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked and makes up 85% of cases
  • Hormonal pills and patches do not increase the risk of bleeding in the brain
  • Certain birth-control pills appear to raise the risk by making blood clot easier
  • In the US, nearly 37% of women are currently using some form of birth control

Oral contraceptives increase the risk of women suffering from certain types of stroke, new research suggests.

Birth-control pills raise a woman’s likelihood of suffering from an ischemic stroke, which occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked and makes up around 85 percent of cases of the life-threatening condition, a study found.

The researchers, from Loyola University in Chicago, wrote: ‘[Among] women with other stroke risk factors, the risk seems higher and, in most cases, oral contraceptive use should be discouraged’.

Such contraceptives do not raise the risk of hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by bleeding in the brain, the research adds.

Birth-control pills, patches and jabs are thought to rise the risk of artery blockages by making blood more likely to clot.

The researchers stress, however, the risk is low among women without any risk factors for clotting. These include high-blood pressure and smoking.

Most women have tried at least one hormonal contraceptive in their lives. In the US, nearly 37 percent of women are currently using birth control.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women in the US, with 55,000 more females suffering than men every year.

Results further suggest women are not being accurately screened for potential stroke risk-factors before being prescribed hormonal contraceptives.

Among women at risk of the medical emergency, only 15 percent recall being advised not to take birth-control pills, while just 36 percent have been told to stop taking the medication.

Some 15 percent of women carry on their birth-control course after being told to discontinue.

The researchers believe this highlights the need for effective doctor-patient communication.

Speaking of how women can reduce their stroke risk, the researchers wrote: ‘The ideal drug is one with the lowest estrogen and progestin doses that will be effective in preventing pregnancy while minimizing adverse effects.’

The findings were published in the journal MedLink Neurology. 

Read more:


Woman Trusts God and Delivers “Miracle Baby” While Fighting Brain Cancer

MICAIAH BILGER   JAN 12, 2018   |   4:37PM    WASHINGTON, DC

An amazingly brave teenager gave birth to a baby girl last week in Philadelphia while battling a deadly brain cancer.

Dana Scatton, 17, of Pennsylvania, is doing fairly well undergoing rounds of radiation treatment, and her “miracle” baby, Aries Marie, is thriving. The past few months have been extremely difficult for Dana and her family, but they told The Advertiser that their faith is keeping them strong.

The first shock came during the summer when Dana discovered she was pregnant. Though afraid, Scatton chose life for her baby girl, and her parents Lenore and Robert Scatton supported her decision.

“In June, Dana found out she was pregnant,” her mother told the news outlet. “She had an orthodontist appointment to get braces that day – and I met her there. That’s when she told me. She got out of the car, grabbed me, hugged me, and told me in my ear that she was pregnant.”

Dana continued with her plans to attend college in the fall.

“I was shocked when I first found out I was having a baby, but I was happy,” she said. “I knew my life would change, I would grow up a little faster … but that gave me more motivation.”

But tragedy struck in December. Dana said she began to experience weird delays in her speech, and sometimes her legs did not respond correctly; she also felt extremely tired.

Her family took her to the emergency room where doctors ran a series of tests. According to the report, the doctors discovered a cancerous, 2.3 centimeter tumor on her brain. She later was diagnosed with a deadly, incurable form of brain cancer called DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), the report states.

That was on Dec. 10, and she was 7 months pregnant.

Dana decided to start radiation after she gave birth, fearing for her unborn daughter’s safety, but she quickly became sicker and sicker. She said she started struggling to breathe, and she could no longer walk up or down stairs.

On the day after Christmas, her doctors decided that Dana could not wait any longer. They began radiation, assuring her that her unborn baby would not be harmed.

“I feel like God just directed the doctors to help decide what I should do,” Dana said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start radiation without having the baby because I didn’t want it to hurt her. But I couldn’t decide what to do – it was too hard.”

She gave birth to her daughter, Aries Marie, on Jan. 4. The tiny miracle weighed 4 pounds 6 ounces.

Dana and her family said they continue to trust God for the future.

“God has been taking care of so much,” Dana said. “Like with the whole radiation thing, I was so worried about the baby, but when I was in there, I felt like he was holding my belly. I feel like I am just going along with him. My choice is to trust God with everything.

“Getting death thrown in your face … it’s so real,” she continued. “It really shows you what’s true. This world doesn’t matter, it’s temporary, you know? When I found out, I immediately let the world go. It’s like, that doesn’t matter anymore. We have to look at the eternal life. We all think we have so much time … honestly, I feel thankful that I have this time to wake up and realize what’s right. And I want everybody to see that.”

She currently is undergoing radiation five days a week, according to the report. Her family said Aries still is in the hospital, but she is doing very well.The family set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Dana’s medical expenses and a possible clinical trial that is not covered by insurance. People also can follow the family’s journey on Facebook.

‘There is hope’: Man comes out of ‘permanent vegetative state’ after 15 years

LYON, France, October 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — No human being is ever a “vegetable,” but the phrase “Permanent Vegetative State” certainly described “Jack.”

If someone falls into a “Persistent Vegetative State” (PVS), being completely unaware and unresponsive for a whole year, their condition is diagnosed as permanent.

Colloquially speaking, Jack (a pseudonym) looked awake, but he “wasn’t there.” Now, French doctors have shattered that medical conviction by reviving the 35-year-old man who spent 15 unresponsive years after a severe car accident.

Doctors implanted a device to stimulate Jack’s vagus nerve, the longest of the involuntary nerves that runs from the base of the brain to the abdomen. Besides helping regulate heart, lungs, and digestive tract, the nerve has a lot to do with wakefulness and attention.

They artificially stimulated Jack’s vagus nerve every day for a month. The results produced a medical science breakthrough perhaps greater than the discovery of penicillin.

Their subject responded for the first time in 15 years.

Jack didn’t gain full awareness, but he responded to simple requests. He followed objects with his eyes. He could turn his head when asked. He stayed awake listening to a therapist read a book. His eyes opened wide when someone suddenly got in his face.

In medical terms, he went from a “permanent vegetative state” to a minimally conscious state. “He cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware,” study leader Angela Sirigu of the Institute of Cognitive Science in Lyon said.

His dramatic change was documented in brain scan “before” and “after” comparisons. (PIC of brain scan comparison)

To the pro-life layman, this is a major vindication.

“Ever since Terri Schiavo, writing about the wrongness of removing feeding tubes from patients diagnosed with persistent unconsciousness (PVS) … is like spitting in the wind,” columnist Wesley J. Smith wrote. “Patients in this condition are often dehydrated to death by having their feeding tubes removed, which takes up to two weeks. … People with minimal awareness are legally dehydrated in all 50 states.”

“This should be good news that should cause us to pause in removing feeding tubes from the unconscious,” Smith advised. “Some bioethicists even want such removals to become standard” after a year or two, he warned.

Some still defend starving or painfully dehydrating patients “because they may be in horror at their impaired condition or otherwise suffering.” But Smith said a major study of patients who appeared completely unconscious but proved later to actually be awake and aware “shows that most are ‘happy,’ and majorities would not want euthanasia.”

“Let’s care for these seriously disabled patients — both apparently unconscious and conscious — as full and equal members of the moral community,” Smith concluded.   “And let’s think twice before removing sustaining treatment that can only have one result: a protracted and perhaps painful death.”

Smith noted that 40 percent of PVS diagnoses are wrong, but it now seems possible, at least thinkable, that some who actually do fall into such a state may be revivable.

Jack’s results were published in the journal “Current Biology.”

Niels Birbaumer of the University of Tübingen pointed out that “many of these patients may and will have been neglected, and passive euthanasia may happen often in a vegetative state.” Jack’s example, Birbaumer said, “is a warning to all those believing that this state is hopeless after a year.”

National Geographic’s Karen Weintraub speculated that “if the method is shown to work in a broader population, vagal nerve stimulation could give people with limited consciousness at least a bit of free will and the ability to communicate.”

Hannah Devlin of The Guardian wrote that Jack’s success “offer(s) hope to the families of patients in PVS that it may one day be possible to re-establish some basic form of communication.”

University of Birmingham cognitive neuroscientist Damian Cruse called Jack’s story “pretty exciting.” “If you can just push the patient over the threshold so they can start responding to external stimulation you can maybe help them follow speech therapy and get them to a level where they can start to communicate,” he said.

In recent years, a brain-computer interface has been developed that facilitates paralyzed patients previously thought in a “vegetative state” to communicate basic “yes” or “no” answers to let loved ones know what they want, feel and need.

Vagal nerve stimulation has been used with epileptics, those with neurological disorders, and those suffering from recent brain injury.

Smith exhorts pro-lifers to “never call (human beings) ‘vegetables,’ a term as denigrating and dehumanizing as a racial epithet.”

Futility Policies and the Duty to Die

I am on the road this week speaking to groups and doing radio interviews. So here is an article published in Voices magazine (a Catholic women’s’ magazine) in 2003 with an update in 2005.  In the intervening years, the problems have grown worse but I originally wrote this article when almost no one had heard of futility policies. Here is the article.

When I first saw “Jack” last September (2002), he was lying unconscious in an ICU with a ventilator to help him breathe. It had been two weeks since a truck struck the 60 year-old and his injuries were devastating — including broken bones, blunt-force trauma and a severe head injury.

When Jack’s family contacted me about seeing him, they were desperate. The doctors told them that he would never come out of the coma and the issue of withdrawal of treatment was raised. The wife refused.

I could make no guarantees but I gave Jack’s wife a pamphlet on coma stimulation and began visiting Jack weekly.

As an ICU nurse myself, I could see that some of the staff felt that taking care of Jack was a waste of time. So I was not surprised when the family was soon told that nothing more could be done. But it was shocking when the hospital told the family that Jack’s ventilator was going to be removed regardless of their wishes. The family was given a deadline to find another health facility to take him.

By that time, Jack was opening his eyes and his family thought he could squeeze their hands at times. The medical and nursing staff assured them that this was just a “reflex”.

After some frantic phone calls, Jack was transferred to a long care facility that took patients on ventilators. Soon after the transfer, his condition became critical again and the family insisted he be treated. Jack was transferred to a hospital ICU. When the staff found out I was a nurse, some of them asked me what the family’s rationale was for continuing treatment. It was obvious that they too felt Jack was a hopeless case.

But over time, Jack improved and was finally able to breathe on his own without a ventilator so he was transferred to a regular hospital bed. Eventually it became evident to all that Jack was starting to respond to commands but it took pressure to get rehab services for him.

Just before Thanksgiving — a little more than two months after his accident — Jack became fully awake. He is now in a rehabilitation facility near his home in Illinois where the staff is working to strengthen his arms and legs, which were broken in the accident. Now, no one meeting him would ever guess that he had had a brain injury.

Even doctors and nurses who ordinarily disdain religion often call cases like Jack’s “miracles”. Of course, for many in healthcare, it’s easier to believe in miracles than to accept that they were wrong and a life could have been unnecessarily or prematurely lost.

But while Jack’s story has a happy ending, many similar cases do not. Families often automatically accept or are even pressured into accepting a doctor’s grim prognosis for their loved one and withdraw treatment after a patient’s brain is injured by trauma or other conditions like a stroke. Usually, the patient then dies.

Unfortunately, families like Jack’s who choose to continue treatment despite a “hopeless” prognosis are increasingly being denied that choice because of “futile care” policies being adopted in many hospitals throughout the country.

And such “futile care” principles have so permeated much of medicine today that there are even cases of elderly or terminally ill patients expected to have months of life remaining whose doctors didn’t want to prescribe medications such as antibiotics because the person was going to die sooner or later anyway.

Futile Care Policies and “Choice”
Most people assume that either they or their families will have the right to decide about medical treatment when they become seriously or critically ill. The biggest problem, people are told, is that they or their loved one will be tethered to a machine forever if they do not sign a “living will” or other health care directive. The “right to die” movement has convinced most people and medical personnel that the ability to refuse treatment is one of the most important aspects of medical care to prevent patients and families from needless suffering. Indeed, poll after poll shows that most people say they would rather die than be a “vegetable”. And many people automatically assume that they would never want their lives prolonged if they had a terminal illness, were paralyzed or senile, etc. Most people assume that refusing treatment, like assisted suicide (the other goal of the “right to die” movement), means choice and control.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this supposed “right to die” nirvana.

Some families and patients did not “get with the program” and insisted that medical treatment be continued for themselves or their loved ones despite a “hopeless” prognosis and the recommendations of doctors and/or ethicists to stop treatment. Many doctors and ethicists were appalled that their expertise would be challenged and they theorized that such families or patients were unrealistic, “in denial” about the prognosis or were mired in dysfunctional family relationships. (In contrast, families who agree to withdraw treatment are almost always referred to as “loving” and their motives are spared such scrutiny.)

At a 1994 pediatric ethics conference I attended, one participant was even applauded when he suggested that parents who refused to withdraw treatment from their “vegetative” children were being “cruel” and even “abusive” by not “allowing” their children to die. In some cases, doctors and ethicists have even gone to court to force withdrawal of treatment over a family’s objections. These ethicists and doctors were stunned when judges were often reluctant to overrule the families.

Yet over the years and unknown to most of the public, many ethicists have still refused to concede the choice of a right to live and instead have developed a new theory that doctors cannot be forced to provide “inappropriate” or “futile” care and treatment to patients deemed “hopeless”. This theory has now evolved into “futile care” policies at hospitals in Houston, Des Moines, California and many other areas. Even Catholic hospitals are now becoming involved.

In the July-August 2000 issue of the Catholic Health Association’s magazine Health Progress, Catherine M. Mikus and Reverend Peter Clark — a lawyer and an ethicist — argue that it is “time for a formalized medical futility policy” in Catholic hospitals. Like many such articles in secular ethics journals, the authors refrain from being too specific about what conditions and which patients would be subject to such a policy. The authors concede that even the American Medical Association says that medical futility is a concept that “cannot be meaningfully defined” and is a “subjective judgment” on which there is no widespread agreement.

Mikus and Clark make it clear that they are not talking about treatments that are “harmful, ineffective, or impossible”, the traditional concept of medical futility that, of course, is not ethically obligatory. For example, no doctor would honor a family’s request for a kidney transplant for a person who is imminently dying. Instead, the authors argue for a new definition of futility to overrule patients and/or families on a case-by-case basis based on the doctor’s and/or ethicist’s determination of the “patient’s best interest”. Ironically, the “right to die” movement was founded on the premise that patients and/or families are the best judges of when it is time to die. Now, however, we are being told that doctors and/or ethicists are really the best judges of when we should die. This is reminiscent of the imperious statement attributed to Henry Ford that his Model T customers could “paint it any color, so long as it’s black”. Thus the “right to die” becomes the “duty to die”, with futile care policies offering death as the only “choice”.

But despite the lack of consensus on what constitutes futile care, these Catholic authors are passionate about why such policies should be adopted and insist that their policies are “firmly rooted in the Catholic tradition”:

“Proper stewardship of these resources entails not wasting them on treatments that are futile and inappropriate. They must be rationally allocated; to waste them is ethically irresponsible and morally objectionable”. (Emphasis added)

In other words, a social justice-style argument is being made to save money.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Mikus and Clark’s opinions, not only is a sense of humility lacking but also a sense of God’s jurisdiction:

“In assessing whether a treatment is medically futile, physicians must consider carefully not only the values and goals of the patient/surrogate, but also those of the community, the institution, and society as a whole”. (Emphasis added)

This not only ignores God’s ultimate role in life and death but also turns the Hippocratic oath on its head. While the Hippocratic oath is no longer routinely used with medical students, its enduring legacy has always been the sacredness of the commitment of the doctor to his individual patient. Now, new doctors are often told that their ultimate commitment instead resides with the health and welfare of society.

It is appalling that Catholic doctors are now also being encouraged to adopt the secular and utilitarian concept of the greatest good for the greatest number rather than a spiritual commitment to each individual for whom they care. Under this new standard, Jesus the great Healer must be considered a failure for tenderly concerning Himself with healing such “little” lives during His ministry rather than constructing a more “politically correct” health system.

Where Do We Go from Here?
Just a generation ago, doctors and nurses were ethically prohibited from hastening or causing death. Family disputes and ethically gray situations occurred, but certain actions (such as withdrawing medically assisted food and water from a severely brain-injured but non-dying person) were considered illegitimate no matter who was making the decision.

But with the rise of the modern bioethics movement, life is no longer assumed to have the intrinsic value it once did, and “quality of life” has become the overriding consideration. Over time, the ethical question “what is right?” became “who decides?” — which now has devolved into “what is legally allowed?”

Thus, it is not surprising that the Health Progress article on futility policies is subtitled “Mercy Health System’s Procedures Will Help Free Its Physicians from Legal Concerns”. This is no afterthought, but rather the greatest fear of the authors that families may sue.

Doctors are understandably afraid of civil or malpractice lawsuits. In this article, Mikus and Clark attempt to convince doctors that a written futility policy — no matter how vague — is necessary. Then doctors would use the power of an ethics committee to back up their decisions in any legal proceeding in order to prove that the determination of futility meets the hospital’s standard of care.

Even more ominously, there have been efforts to incorporate futile care policy into state and federal law. For example, Senator Arlen Specter introduced the Health Care Assurance Act of 2001 that, while aimed at improving health care for children and the disabled, nevertheless contains a provision that there is no obligation:

“to require that any individual be offered, or to state that any individual may demand, medical treatment which the health care provider does not have available, or which is, under prevailing medical standards, either futile or otherwise not medically indicated”. [Emphasis added.]

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize it. We cannot always rely on a mainstream media that would rather exhaustively cover a star’s shoplifting charge than alert us to thorny ethical problems. Legislation and policies are often developed without public knowledge or comment. Health insurance can no longer be counted on to pay for all needed treatment in many situations.

This is why publications such as Voices and many other Catholic periodicals, pro-life news services and the Internet are so important, especially in the area of ethics. We in the Church are also blessed with encyclicals, Vatican documents and the writings of the doctors of the Church, which give clear principles that are still just as valid and useful as ever in a world of increasing technology and seductive decadence.

If we truly want to protect lives, save souls and fight injustice, we cannot remain silent in the face of an ever-expanding “culture of death”.

Postscript (2005): A couple of years after this was published, Jack was home and doing well when I was contacted by a documentary team from the UK who were making a film about Jack’s experience. I was asked to be a part of this.

I spent a lot of time with the British team and they told me how giving up on someone like Jack would not happen in the UK, despite their government-run National Health Service.

I knew this because in 2000, Dr. Keith Andrews of the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and his team in the UK had determined that “The slow-to-recover patient is often incorrectly labelled as being in VS (vegetative state)” at a rate of four out of 10. Dr. Andrews and his team developed the SMART (Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique) to be used in hospitals to reduce the danger of misdiagnosis.


Judge: ‘Brain dead’ teen could actually be alive

September 7, 2017 (National Review) — This could be one of the biggest bioethics cases since Terri Schiavo.

A judge has ruled that the teenager, declared dead in California, may not be dead. From the East Bay Express story:

Jahi McMath, the Oakland teenager whose brain death case has sparked national debate, may not currently fit the criteria of death as defined by a state law written in conjunction with the medical establishment, a judge wrote in an order Tuesday.

In his ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Pulido wrote that while the brain death determination in 2013 was made in accordance with medical standards, there remains a question of whether the teenager “satisfies the statutory definition of ‘dead’ under the Uniform Determination of Death Act.”

Bottom line, if she is not brain dead, then by definition, she’s alive. At the very least, there is enough doubt in this case based on Dr. Alan Shewmon’s testimony to induce the judge to issue his ruling:

Pulido heavily cited Dr. Alan Shewmon, who concluded in a court declaration that Jahi doesn’t currently fit the criteria for brain death after reviewing 49 videos of her moving specific fingers and other extremities when given commands to do so.

Shewmon, a professor emeritus of pediatrics and neurology at UCLA, wrote that Jahi “is a living, severely disabled young lady, who currently fulfills neither the standard diagnostic guidelines for brain death nor California’s statutory definition of death.” Shewmon also reviewed an MRI.

Full disclosure. I recently visited Jahi and her mother, along with Bobby Schindler.

That visit reinforced my view, previously written here, that this case demands a much deeper investigation than it has received heretofore, including impartial and thorough renewed medical examinations.

So I am very pleased the case is going forward.

Reprinted with permission from The National Review.

Mom With Brain Tumor Who Refused Abortion Gives Birth to Baby Girl Named “Life”


A terminally ill Michigan woman who sacrificed her life to save her unborn baby’s gave birth to her baby girl, Life Lynn, on Wednesday.

Carrie DeKlyen, of Wyoming, Michigan, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in April. Not long after that, she and her husband, Nick, discovered that they were pregnant with their sixth child, Life Lynn.

WOOD TV reports Carrie refused to participate in a clinical trial that could have prolonged her life because doctors said she would have had to abort her unborn baby.

On Wednesday, Life Lynn was born weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces at University Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, reports. She spent 24 weeks and 5 days in the womb.

Carrie, 37, suffered a massive stroke earlier this summer and has not regained consciousness. She gave birth while in a coma, according to the report.

As the family celebrates the tiny baby girl’s life, they are preparing for their wife and mother’s death. Carrie’s condition has deteriorated, and she no longer is even minimally responsive, according to the family.

The DeKlyens said Carrie was taken off life support after she gave birth to her daughter, and they believe her life is “in God’s hands until he calls her home.”

Her sister-in-law, Sonya Nelson, said Life Lynn is doing “as well as could be expected” for a baby born so prematurely. She said doctors decided to deliver her this week because they feared that she would die in the womb if they waited much longer.

Here’s more from the local news:

“The doctors ran tests (Wednesday) and extensive ultrasounds – she wasn’t even moving and was very sick,” Nelson said, noting that the baby was born at 24 weeks and 5 days. “My brother said the doctors are extremely pleased with how the baby is doing.”

… “We are now just trying to keep Carrie comfortable and keeping it in God’s hands,” Nelson said. “We are so proud of Carrie. She laid down her life for her child while refusing treatment for (herself). Her rewards are going to be great.”

Her husband, Nick, told People that he is so proud of Carrie, and he is certain that he will see her again one day in heaven.

“Not in this life, but after my time is up I’ll be with her again in Heaven,” he said. “She made the decision to give Life a chance at life. And I couldn’t be more proud.”

Carrie has glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer. Since she was diagnosed in April, she has undergone several surgeries to remove the tumor from her brain, but each time the cancer returned, according to the report.

The mother of six refused to participate in an experimental treatment that could have prolonged her life because it would have meant aborting her unborn daughter.

“The doctor said if you don’t terminate this baby, Carrie, you will die,” her husband told People in August. “But it was Carrie’s decision and I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ She said, ‘We’re keeping it.’”

Over the summer, Carrie began chemotherapy while pregnant; but she later suffered a massive stroke that left her unconscious. Doctors tried to keep her comfortable and her unborn baby in the womb until she developed enough to survive outside it.

“We are a family of faith,” Nelson said previously. “And so we are just believing that God’s plan for Carrie is to be healed. And if he chooses to heal her here or in heaven, we will still trust in him.”

The family is asking people to pray for Carrie and baby Life Lynn. Nelson also set up a GoFundMe page where people can donate to help with the large family’s expenses.

Neurologist Says Videos of Teenager Declared “Brain Dead” Show She is Still Alive

Micaiah Bilger   Jul 25, 2017   |   2:26PM    Oakland, CA

As the tragic case of British infant Charlie Gard nears a close, another family in the United States continues their fight for their severely ill daughter’s life.

Right now, McMath’s family is waiting for a court ruling on whether California, her home state, will revoke her death certificate, the AP reports. McMath was 13 when doctors declared her brain dead at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California in late 2013, and state officials issued her a death certificate.

Here’s more from the report:

In court documents filed last month supporting the family’s lawsuit to have the death certificate revoked, retired neurologist Dr. Alan Shewmon said videos recorded by Jahi McMath’s family from 2014 to 2016 show the teen is still alive.

Shewmon is a longtime critic of how brain death is defined and has filed similar court papers supporting efforts by McMath’s family to undo the death certificate. The family has previously shown video clips of McMath twitching her fingers, which they said showed she still has brain function.

Shewmon is a world-renowned expert on the brain and a professor emeritus at UCLA.

On Oct. 3, 2014, Shewmon testified about Jahi:

Based on the materials provided to me so far, I can assert unequivocally that Jahi currently does not fulfill the diagnostic criteria for brain death. The materials include extensive medical records from St. Peter’s University Hospital, which I am still in the process of reviewing, videos of Jahi moving her hand and her foot in response to verbal requests by her mother, images from an EEG done in her apartment on 9/1/14, images of a brain MRI scan done at Rutgers on 9/26/20-14, and heart rate variability analysis by my colleague Dr. Calizto Machado based on the EKG channel from 9/1/14 EEG. 

Last year, her family said her body has not deteriorated as is typical with brain dead patients on life support, and she is able to breathe on her own. A video showed her taking 14 to 15 breaths on her own in one minute at the prompting of her mother.

Her mother, Latasha Spears Winkfield, said they understand that Jahi’s brain is damaged, but they believe she still deserves a right to life.

Lawyers for the hospital say the videos do not necessarily prove that Jahi is not brain dead. They said Jahi’s movements could be “easily manipulated,” and the camera was located in a “convenient angle.”

A judge is expected to rule on Jahi’s life within the next two months, according to the report.

Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, who has been following her case, wrote last year:

If Jahi is alive, either the earlier death determination was mistaken or–and this would be huge–something never seen before in this field will have happened, a brain dead person recovering sufficient brain function to be deemed again alive. If Jahi lives, it will send shock waves through the medical, scientific, and organ transplant communities. ….But that’s tough. Our duty to Jahi, the integrity of the system, and the needs of scientific understanding require that the truth will out.

Dr. Paul Byrne: From preemies to end-of-life issues, one man has made a difference

By Rob Sample – MAY 25, 2017


The dedication and legacy of a prodigious pro-life hero

When five-year-old Lilliana Dennis was born in February 2011 in Indianapolis, doctors informed her mom and dad that she suffered from a rare genetic condition that was “incompatible with life.” As Lilliana approaches her sixth birthday, she continues to defy the odds and prove conventional medical wisdom both wrong and wrongheaded.

Lilliana has Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome. As with Down syndrome, such babies are born with an extra chromosome, resulting in heart defects, respiratory problems, and finger and toe abnormalities. Most die before their first birthday, the doctors said, and there was little the Dennises could do to stop that eventual outcome.

Fortunately, the Dennises did some of their own research, which contradicted what they had been told. In fact, one child graduated from college and lived to the age of 42. The Dennises also befriended Dr. Paul Byrne, a retired neonatologist, longtime pro-life activist, and founder of the Life Guardian Foundation ( He recommended heart surgery for Lilliana, along with other life-saving measures, and although the road has been difficult, Lilliana’s prognosis continues to improve.

Dr. Byrne is no stranger to death-and-dying issues and the challenges posed by both preemies and babies with congenital illnesses. In 1963, he established the neonatal intensive care unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Though he no longer makes hospital rounds, he stays very, very busy working on behalf of the preborn, sick newborns, the disabled, the elderly, and people with illnesses deemed “terminal.”

“Not only do we have a culture of death in our society—it is a System of Death,” Dr. Byrne says. “We have to work hard to protect life from its beginning until true death. That’s why Life Guardian Foundation was founded.”

“I retired a few years ago after practicing medicine for 55 years,” Dr. Byrne adds. “Yet, instead of a retirement party, I asked my family to have a ‘redirection party.’ My work has not stopped—in fact, I’m busier than ever! People have a way of finding out that I can help them in the cause for life and in their own difficult situations.”

Small beginnings

To get a sense of how Dr. Byrne’s passion for saving lives all began, it’s helpful to go back to the very beginning, when he was a young doctor practicing at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in the mid- 1960s. There, Dr. Byrne established the hospital’s very first special care nursery for at-risk infants.

“Back then, there were no treatments for preemies and low-birthweight babies, the kinds of things we take for granted today,” he recalls. “I went to the administrator at Cardinal Glennon with the idea of creating a center where we could find ways to treat these babies. She said, ‘OK, let’s try it for a year.’”

After that first year, Dr. Byrne’s efforts had saved the lives of 30 babies. “How?” you might ask. For starters, he partnered with engineers working nearby on the space pro-gram. They had developed a plastic cuff to fit around the fingers of astronauts, enabling their blood pressure to be monitored during space missions. Together, they developed a spinoff that fit around the arm of a tiny baby: Before this invention, there was no way to monitor a baby’s blood pressure.

Dr. Byrne and his team also pioneered new techniques for feeding these babies intravenously as well as specially designed ventilators to augment their respiratory function. All were instrumental in helping such infants survive. Since preemies are so small, new, highly sensitive measurement protocols were also necessary to track their health.

“For instance, premature infants have very small total quantities of blood,” Dr. Byrne notes. “That required development of micro techniques to analyze blood for indicators of health or disease. These micro-techniques that were developed for sick babies are used for everyone. It was exciting for me to be able to participate in the development of what was then a brand-new field.”

Signs of life

It was also heartening for him to witness babies who had been deemed hopeless develop into healthy children and adults. The birth of Joseph in 1975—at a mere 24 weeks’ gestation— was one such miracle. “He had a flat electroencephalogram or EEG—in other words, no brainwaves,” Dr. Byrne recalls.

The EEG is a common method of measuring brain activity at any age. The flat EEG of Joseph was interpreted as “consistent with cerebral death.” “Nonetheless, Joseph went on to be a straight-A student in school, build a brilliant career, and he’s now married and the father of three kids.”

While considered breakthroughs in their day, many of these developments are now commonplace in both neonatal intensive care units and medical care as a whole. Plastic cuffs are routinely used to measure blood pressure of patients.

“My medical philosophy is that the best doctors are the ones who work the hardest on the people who are the sickest,” he says. “What you try to accomplish for those sickest people first will ultimately have a beneficial impact on the rest of humanity.”

Darker trends

During the early 1970s, Dr. Byrne witnessed a trend he found troubling: the increased acceptance of brainwave cessation as a legally acceptable marker of death. This occurred even before abortion became legally available in most states, and it owed in part to new ways to artificially resuscitate patients to keep a person’s heart beating with circulation and respiration. It also followed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967, after which organ transplants became common practice in a short amount of time.

“The push to accept ‘brain death’ has a lot do with the concurrent push for viable organs for transplants,” says Dr. Byrne. He noted that, following that first heart transplant, the medical community began lobbying elected officials for new laws that first codified “brain death” in the US.

This had practical reasons. Dr. Byrne points out that to transplant a heart or a liver, the donor’s heart, circulation and respiratory processes must be kept functioning for healthy vital organs to be removed. Organs from a cadaver are useless, he notes, because organs begin to decompose immediately after those functions cease.

“Now, when someone suffers a head injury or is deeply unconscious, there is a shift of emphasis from helping that patient to harvesting his or her organs for transplantation,” he says. The fact that viable organs are very valuable to the organ transplant industry can add a monetary incentive to the push to declare patients legally dead.

Forty-seven US states have passed the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) that presumes everyone is an organ donor. This is in addition to those who have willingly registered as organ donors on their drivers’ licenses. This often creates a conflict, when the same individuals have also filed advance DNR (do not resuscitate) directives. In such situations, that previous DNR order will be overruled and the patient will be resuscitated in order for their vital organs to be usable for transplantation.

It could happen . . . to anyone

This isn’t all just academic. In 2007, 19-year-old Gregory Jacobs sustained a severe head injury while skiing and died at a Pennsylvania hospital less than a week later. In a lawsuit, his parents maintained that their son “experienced neither a cessation of cardiac activity nor a cessation of brain activities when surgeons began the procedures for removing his vital organs.”

The Jacobs case was the subject of a CBS News report, and the elder Jacobses ultimately won a $1.2 million settlement in 2012. More recent is the case of the now-16-year-old Jahi McMath, who had severe sleep apnea and on which Dr. Byrne is a medical advisor.

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy at a California hospital, which aimed to improve her ability to sleep at night. She later hemorrhaged and went into cardiac arrest. Physicians declared her to be “brain dead” and ordered the removal of life-support systems.

Jahi’s mom, Latasha Winkfield, disagreed and filed a lawsuit seeking to keep her on life support. A death certificate was issued for Jahi in California before she could be moved to a New Jersey hospital. She later was moved to an apartment with her mom, where she continues to live on life support.

Incidentally, Dr. Byrne was instrumental in getting a new law passed in that state, which gives parents or caregivers the ability to object conscientiously to such orders from a physician or hospital. A similar regulation, though not as strong, now exists in neighboring New York.

“Jahi McMath is very much alive . . . but a death certificate was issued in California!” exclaims Dr. Byrne. “She has had three birthdays since being declared legally dead.”

A broadened focus

Dr. Byrne is a steadfast pro-life advocate and supporter of American Life League (ALL). His knowledge and guidance shaped ALL’s policy on euthanasia and brain death; he is the author of our materials on the subject. Most recently, he played an important role in the development of a study guide on euthanasia for ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program. In addition to supporting ALL and other organizations, Dr. Byrne saw a need for another organization focusing attention on end-of-life issues. That led to the founding of the Life Guardian Foundation in 2007.

The organization’s website offers a rich repository of resources that helps people understand the controversies that now surround the end of life. Besides the moral and ethical implications, there’s a lot of practical value as well. Many of us now must deal with the treatment of elderly parents, and the use of feeding tubes is often taken to mean that their lives are at the end. Not necessarily so, says Dr. Byrne.

“People on a feeding tube don’t always have to remain on a feeding tube,” Dr. Byrne says. Noting that it’s not always easy, there are ways to treat such patients that can improve their outlook and lead to a time where a feeding tube can be removed. Similarly, severe head injury often leads to a grim prognosis— yet treating the patient with thyroid medications can greatly improve patient prognosis.

Poke around a bit more on the website and you’ll uncover other fascinating information. There are more than 30 disparate sets of criteria. You can be declared “brain dead” by one but be alive by others. The Uniform Declaration of Death Act (UDDA) now on the books in all 50 states mandates that the determination be “in accordance with acceptable medical standards.” The patient who is declared “brain dead,” whichever criteria are used, always has a beating heart with circulation and respiration, albeit on a ventilator.

The procedure of an apnea test (not a test for sleep apnea) is part of every set of “brain death” criteria. The patient is taken off the ventilator for 10 minutes. Carbon dioxide and acids accumulate. This makes the brain swelling worse. Everyone must learn to instruct No! to the apnea test. It can only cause the patient to get worse.

“If you end up unconscious and on a ventilator, the doctors at the hospital treating you will declare that your death is imminent, and by law, they have to notify the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO),” says Dr. Byrne. If you don’t want that to happen, Dr. Byrne strongly urges you to explicitly document your refusal in writing.

The foundation website offers three key directives that can help you accomplish that objective: a healthcare power of attorney directive, a directive to protect and preserve life for a dependent minor or mentally incapacitated person, and an organ donation opt-out form that can be carried in your wallet or purse.

“Very often I work with parents of students who go away to college, get into a car accident, and end up at the mercies of a medical system that wants their organs for a transplant patient,” he notes. Since few people have taken the time to study the issue, and since parents are often bewildered and grief-stricken at such times, it can become a complex battle to receive any form of life-extending care for such patients.

A modest hero

Upon being reached by phone for an hour-long interview, Dr. Byrne was quick to shift the emphasis away from himself and to his large family. He’s the father of 12 children. He also has 33 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He’s proud that he has reared a pro-life family.

He’s especially proud of the pro-life poems that his son, Mark, wrote from his heart in the eighth grade—and as Providence would have it—his granddaughter Kaitlyn, Mark’s daughter, recently wrote from her heart in the eighth grade as well. Celebrate Life has happily agreed to publish each poem in its entirety!

More critically, he pointed out the clarity by which young people often view the world around them, and the crystal-clear viewpoints they often form on issues that bedevil their elders, provides a lesson for the rest of us. Both pieces speak right to the heart, he says.

“If you read Mark’s and Kaitlyn’s poems, you can see how they recognize just what is at stake: that we must value life,” Dr. Byrne says. “Most importantly, they show us what we need to do to think correctly about life.”


Temptation ruled like an evil dictator,

destroying the hope of everyone around,

clouding the decisions people make every day,

where is our dignity?

Adultery shatters a marriage like a plate dropping,

broken vows scattered all over the ground,

lost faith with the cheating partner,

where is our trust?

Abortion killing like a gun,

helpless baby taken away from its needs,

one murder for one act of lust,

where is our compassion?

Lost in the web of your secrets,

dragged under by all the lies,

suffocated with dishonesty,

where is our humanity?

Humiliated by how wrong I was about you,

drowned by my own tears,

trembling in doubt,

where did I go wrong?

Honesty swept away like crumbs on the floor,

pushed aside for others’ happiness,

walked on by those who can’t help me,

where will I get put next?

Loyalty buried like an old treasure,

possibly will never see the light again,

overlooked by mislead eyes,

where is my search party?

Misguided by all your sweet talk,

lost in the sound of your lies,

let down by the hope in your eyes,

will we ever be the same?

Avoided like a bad mistake,

praying for help every day,

helped by the Lord every day,

does free will make or break us?

Chastity helps us every day,

protecting us from evil’s way,

respecting our bodies each day,

teaching those who might not know,

guarding us from harm’s way,

limiting the sins on our way,

saving lives day by day.

Chastity is the way,

that helps me every day.

—Kaitlyn Byrne


What I think of when I hear the word Life

When I hear the word Life

I think of birds flying gaily through

the sunlit light blue sky.

I think of fish swimming freely through

the refreshingly cool water.

I think of a fully blooming flower with

a touch of dew on its petal.

Waiting for the moment to spring

a new bud, but

when I hear the word Life—

I mostly think of a baby.

A baby who is playing gaily with its toys.

A baby that is laughing happily at

something that amuses it.

And then you hear a cry which tells

you the baby is part of a new world,

a new beginning.

And most of all the baby now has

God’s most precious gift to us,

The gift of Life.

—Mark Byrne

17-year-old ballerina’s death caused by birth control pill, doctors believe

MANCHESTER, England, April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Maria Santa, a healthy and gifted 17 year-old ballerina from Romania, died unexpectedly from a blood clot that doctors believe was caused by taking oral contraceptives.

Maria, who was studying in England on a scholarship at Manchester’s famous Northern Ballet School, went to a walk-in medical facility complaining of severe headaches, her father Robert Santa explained.  No testing was done to see what was wrong, and Maria was sent home with antibiotics.

But Maria only got worse “day by day,” her father said.  A second visit to the doctor did not help, either.

Maria began vomiting every hour, without eating or drinking.  Going to the healthcare center for the third time last fall, she said she found it difficult to stand or sit;  all she wanted to do was lie down.  She was again given pills and sent home.

Two days later, on November 11, Maria complained that it felt like her head was going to explode, and she couldn’t feel her right leg.  She was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Mr. Santa shared that when the doctor came into her hospital room, Maria “could speak, then when he came back and asked where the headache was, she couldn’t speak.”

“The doctor told us not to worry because she was tired,” Mr. Santa said.  “She didn’t speak any more, and she needed help with everything.”

Later that morning, Maria’s boyfriend found her unconscious at their apartment.

Maria was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital, but never regained consciousness.  She died two days later.

The doctor who treated Maria at the hospital, Dr. Jonathan Greenbaum, said, “She was a fit, young woman, and the only risk factor was being on the oral contraceptive pill.”

He explained that the risk of blood clots with oral contraception is “very low, but if you take the pill then your risk is slightly increased.”  He said identifying a medical risk is difficult, “because it’s so rare and the symptoms can be non-specific.”

Maria’s case, he said, was “just unfortunate and bad luck.”

“In Greater Manchester, I would guess we would see three or four patients a year with this problem,” Dr. Greenbaum estimated.

Dr. Piyali Pal, a pathologist, said Maria’s cause of death was blood clots in the brain.

“Causes could be dehydration, malnutrition, blood clotting disorders or somebody who had taken oral contraception pills. There was no underlying pathological cause,” he said. “It’s very very rare for someone so young to have this condition. One woman who was a similar age was also on some form of oral contraception.”

Coroner Simon Nelson recorded Maria’s cause of death as “natural causes.”

An Agonizingly Cruel Death Sentence

Physician assisted suicide legislation has been making the news recently. Legalized euthanasia in Canada, Netherlands, Belgium and other European nations have also generated headlines.

However, a silent, rampant killer is intentionally claiming lives of far more patients each day in America’s medical facilities.

This quiet, legal killer is taking the lives more Americans than all the assisted suicide deaths combined. It’s the withdrawal of food and water from patients whose lives are deemed “futile” by hospitals, nursing homes and hospices throughout the nation.

Food and water delivered by tube instead of mouth was once deemed “basic and ordinary care” but is now viewed as “extraordinary medical treatment.” Further, it’s legal in all 50 states to withhold food and water when it will directly result in the death of a patient.

Terri Schiavo was denied food and water. It too her 13 days to die.

So how many patients is this likely affecting? According to the American Hospital Association and the Centers for Disease Control, there are nearly 35,000 hospitals, nursing homes and hospices operating in the USA — 1.3 million patients in hospice alone. After doing the math it’s easy to assume that every day patients are being “put down” using an agonizingly cruel, drawn-out death sentence.

Bobby Schindler, president of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network and brother to Terri Schiavo, saw this horror play out in a very personal way with his sister. It took her 13 excruciating days to die. A time period he appropriately describes as a nightmare for Terri and her family.

“My sister’s lips were horribly cracked to the point they were blistering. Her skin became jaundice with areas that turned different shades of blue. Terri’s breathing became rapid and uncontrollable. Her moaning, at times, was raucous, which indicated to us the insufferable pain she was experiencing. Terri’s face became skeletal, with blood pooling in her deeply sunken eyes and her teeth protruding forward. What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of utter horror on my sister’s face when my family visited her just after she died.”

Death with dignity?

How did a compassionate and progressive nation like ours resort to such a barbaric practice in the name of medicine? So-called bioethicist Daniel Callahan planted the seeds of what can be considered “medical cleansing” in 1983. “A denial of nutrition may in the long run become the only effective way to make certain that a large number of biologically tenacious patents actually die. . .it could well become a non-treatment of choice.”

Brutal and prophetic.

Don’t think you’re immune to the risk of death by dehydration. Laws in 46 states already allow the medical provider—not the patient or family—the right to refuse life-saving or sustaining treatments, including food and water.

Over the years laws have quietly been enacted that prioritize the financial standing of insurance companies and medical facilities over patient autonomy and well-being. Ending the life of a costly patient by dehydration and starvation is an economic no-brainer in this day and age of demanded profitability within medical care. Obamacare has expedited this process.

We have seen examples of patients like Stephanie Packer, California mother of four, denied life-saving treatment where physician assisted suicide is legal, while being offered coverage for a lethal prescription to end her life.

Hospital ethics committees routinely assume full decision-making authority over the treatment of patients when family members disagree on how to proceed. And medical facilities have effective methods of “treatment” for the biologically tenacious who simply refuse to die.

Ethicist Wesley Smith calls it “termination without request or consent.” It involves offing “futile” patients via the denial of food and water or by using terminal sedation, which administers a heavy dose of morphine or other pain killer, whether it’s needed or not, to slow respiration and cause an early death.

Bobby says the best way to protect yourself is to have a legally designated advocate as your power of attorney who will vigorously fight for you. Visit our website for free resources that can help protect you and your family.

Defending innocent human life,

Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 25 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

Toddler forcibly removed from life support: a horrific end to a devastating ordeal

September 2, 2016 (Life Legal Defense Foundation) — Just days ago, two-year-old Israel Stinson was forcibly removed from life support at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. I was on the phone with Jonee Fonseca, Israel’s mother, when doctors disconnected his ventilator.

I could hear Jonee begging the doctors to wait just a few more hours until her family arrived to say goodbye to Israel. They refused. Then I heard her begging her son to breathe.

It was a horrific end to an ordeal that began over four months ago. Israel suffered an asthma attack and stopped breathing while being treated at a Sacramento hospital on April 2 of this year. He was resuscitated, but was placed on a ventilator.

Jonee called Life Legal for help when a second hospital declared Israel brain dead. Doctors at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, California said Israel’s condition would soon deteriorate and that his heart would stop beating even if he were kept on life support. They refused to feed Israel for over five weeks, saying that giving him a feeding tube would be “catastrophic.”

Life Legal attorneys were able to obtain court orders in state and federal court keeping Israel alive until arrangements could be made to care for Israel at home. In order for that to happen, Israel needed two minor procedures to provide him with a breathing tube and feeding tube. Kaiser refused to perform those procedures.

A Catholic hospital in Central America agreed to accept Israel as a patient to do the procedures. In May, Israel was transported by air ambulance to Guatemala. He had to leave a hospital with state-of-the-art healthcare and travel thousands of miles to a developing nation to get the care he needed to survive.

After the procedures, Israel’s condition improved markedly. Doctors did two EEGs, which showed active brain waves. Three separate doctors reported that Israel was not brain dead! Moreover, the doctors were so committed to saving Israel’s life that they agreed to treat Israel without cost during the last few weeks at the Guatemalan hospital.

Jonee then began the arduous process of finding a hospital that would accept Israel temporarily while she arranged for him to be cared for at home. Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles agreed to admit Israel after speaking with Israel’s doctors about his condition.

However, shortly after Israel arrived at Children’s Hospital, doctors threatened to end Israel’s life. They refused even to look at the EEGs or examine Israel’s movements in response to his mother’s voice. They did not consider that Israel’s condition in Guatemala had stabilized such that he needed no artificial means to maintain his heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature. Jonee asked that a Los Angeles neurologist be permitted to examine Israel, as California’s brain death statute requires an independent exam. The hospital refused.

Ten days ago, Jonee called me saying the hospital was going to remove Israel’s ventilator the following day. I flew to Los Angeles to assist her in obtaining a court order. The judge ordered that Israel be kept on life support for three weeks to allow the neurologist to complete his exam. We also found a local attorney to work with Jonee going forward.

But the hospital immediately filed a motion asking the judge to dissolve the court order so they could terminate Israel’s life as soon as possible.

Again, Life Legal attorneys fought heroically alongside Jonee, but ultimately the fight for Israel’s life was lost.

So where do we go from here?

Last January, in a unanimous decision, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the state’s brain death guidelines should be reexamined after a young woman was declared brain dead even though several EEGs showed that she had active brain waves. In that case, the woman died because the hospital refused to feed or treat her.

We have no ethical obligation to fight nature every step of the way in the dying process. However, these cases continue a very disturbing trend of medical professionals actually facilitating a person’s death. Life Legal has represented people in several recent cases where hospitals and hospice facilities have tried to end the life of a patient with a brain injury because doctors or family members believed that person had no chance for recovery. In reality, however, the decision was made in haste, before the person’s brain had a chance to heal. In two cases, young women were sentenced to death who, just weeks later, were on their way to a full recovery. This should NEVER be permitted to happen!

Please join Life Legal as we press on in the fight to protect vulnerable human life.

Reprinted with permission from Life Legal Defense Foundation.

Little Israel Stinson Dies After Hospital Called Him “Brain Dead” and Refused Treatment

In an abrupt, unexpected, and surprise decision, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Thursday dissolved an injunction that prevented a local hospital from turning off 2-year-old Israel Stinson’s ventilator.

The adorable little boy, whose brain-dead diagnosis was fought on two continents by his parents, died shortly afterwards.

“They are devastated. I think still in shock,” family attorney Alexandra Snyder told reporters. “It’s not even my child; I am still in shock this could happen so quickly.”

According to CBS News/Los Angeles

Snyder is shocked by a judge’s decision because just last week the court gave her a temporary order to stop the hospital from removing the ventilator so they could get an opinion from another neurologist.

Many reporters have covered this tragic situation which is eerily similar to Jahi McMath, also diagnosed as brain-dead, whose mother moved her out of California when doctors refused to treat her daughter and who is alive today two and one-half years later.

The most complete appeared in today’s Washington Post

It all started last April, reports Michael E. Miller, “with an asthma attack.”

Israel Stinson was an adorable toddler with a sweet smile and unruly hair. But on April 1, he began having trouble breathing. After he was taken to a northern California hospital, the unthinkable happened: Israel suffered a heart attack. After 40 minutes of CPR, doctors were able to restart his heart. But nearly an hour without oxygen had left him brain dead, they determined.

That’s when the battle began.

In those nearly four months, the family had pulled out all the legal stops and moved Israel to Guatemala on May 22 just before Israel was to be taken off the ventilator. There, Snyder told the Post,

three Guatemalan doctors, including a neurologist, declared that the boy was not brain dead after all.

That diagnosis was based in part on EEG, or electroencephalogram, tests, used to measure electrical activity in the brain, she said.

Snyder declined to name the Guatemalan doctors or their hospital but dismissed the idea that their opinion weighed less than that of American doctors.

“We’re not talking voodoo here,” she told The Post. “They have access to the same equipment as American doctors. Many of them probably have degrees from American medical schools.”

Some three months later they returned to the United States, Miller wrote because, “Despite the pending death certificate, and possibly because of the EEG tests from Guatemala, he had been accepted as a patient at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.”

But, within days,

the new hospital also moved to take the boy off life support. Once again, the family sought an injunction. And on Aug. 11, they received a temporary restraining order blocking the hospital from taking Israel off his ventilator.

Then, on Thursday, came a final, sudden twist in the international medical saga.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge removed the restraining order, saying the case had already been decided at state and federal level before the family traveled to Guatemala.

And with that, doctors turned off Israel’s ventilator.

“I heard them disconnect the ventilator and then heard, of course, a very grieving mother,” said Snyder, who was on the phone with Fonseca at the time.

Snyder told the Post, “What I really don’t understand is why this hospital agreed to take this little boy in the first place,” adding

the boy’s parents never would have brought Israel back to the United States if they had known the hospital was going to pull the plug. “They knew exactly what his condition was, what his treatment was, and they agreed to take him. But it appears they only accepted him as a patient to put him to death. …

“The irony is this little boy was cared for so much better in Guatemala than he was here,” she added. Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared in atNational Right to Life News Today —- an online column on pro-life issues.


‘I’d rather them take my life than to take her,’ says Jahi McMath’s mom

HERNDON, Virginia, July 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The mother of a teenager who was declared “brain dead” and had to be transferred to a hospital across the country in order to continue receiving medical care told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive video interview that her daughter gives her the strength to continue fighting.

Nailah Winkfield, the mother of Jahi McMath, told LifeSiteNews at the 2016 National Right to Life Convention that despite having received death threats for keeping Jahi alive, God — and Jahi herself — give her the strength to move forward in the legal and medical battles surrounding Jahi’s situation.

In 2013, after routine surgery for sleep apnea and to remove her tonsils, then 13-year-old Jahi went into cardiac arrest. She lost oxygen to her brain and a lot of blood, and doctors at a California children’s hospital subsequently declared her brain dead. Jahi’s family did not want the care keeping her alive withdrawn and had to battle the hospital for their daughter’s life. After Jahi’s “brain death” diagnosis, the hospital refused to give her medical care because in California a “brain death” diagnosis legally classifies a person as deceased.

Jahi’s family was eventually allowed to move her to a hospital in New Jersey, and she is now well enough to live at home with her mother.

“To me, there’s nothing more important to me in this world than my kid, so I’d rather them take my life than to take her,” Winkfield said. “And I always tell people all the time, I’d pull the trigger on myself before I’d pull the plug on Jahi. And I’m serious about that. I would not let anything happen to her within my control.”

Winkfield said one of the underlying issues in the way the hospital treated Jahi was money. Had Jahi died, the hospital would have paid Jahi’s family $250,000, but Jahi surviving surgery with serious complications could mean a much heftier price.

“My kid’s life has no price tag on it,” Winkfield said. “So there’s nothing that they could tell me, there’s no amount of money they could give me in the world that could give me back what my daughter lost: her ability to walk, talk, laugh, smile. I miss those things. There’s no money that could give me that back.”

In order for Winkfield to be able to move Jahi from New Jersey back to California, a judge must revoke the adolescent’s death certificate.

“I’ve submitted tons of videos” to the courts of Jahi responding to what she’s asked to do, Winkfield said, along with the testimonies of neurologists and experts saying she is not brain dead.  Now the family must find a judge willing to listen.

Potential for false brain death diagnosis means ‘you’re really not safe anywhere’

Winkfield advised parents faced with a similar situation to stay strong and “just never give up.”

“If you feel that you’re doing the right thing for your kid, you keep doing it,” she said. “And get a good legal team. You have to get a good legal team because if you don’t, you won’t get anywhere.”

Winkfield told LifeSiteNews that it was “shocking” when doctors informed her she didn’t have the right to continue caring for her daughter once they had diagnosed her with brain death.

“They told me I had 72 hours to say my goodbyes to her,” Winkfield said. “I immediately told them no, I didn’t feel that she was dead, and I felt that I didn’t want care withdrew from her and it was my decision. They told me at this point it was not — it was no longer my decision or anybody else’s.”

“I gave birth to her, I’ve been taking care of her her whole life, and you’re gonna tell me I don’t have rights to [take care of] her?” Winkfield asked. “But if she was … to commit a crime or something, and go to juvenile hall, they would say, ‘You have to pay for all these expenses for her. You’re responsible for her.’ But now that I want to keep her alive, [they’re] saying, ‘no, you’re no longer responsible for her.’ We are responsible for her.”

“You’re really not safe anywhere” if your child is diagnosed with brain death, Winkfield warned, and the only state that allows a religious exemption for parents who wish to continue treatment is New Jersey.

Winkfield said that because of her decision to continue caring for her daughter, she has received death threats, people have photoshopped pictures of Jahi to make her look “like her skin is deteriorating,” and her opponents have even called the police and told them a dead girl is in Winkfield’s house.

“People go to the extreme,” Winkfield explained. “I don’t understand why, because I’m not bothering anybody, I’m not asking anybody for anything. The only thing I’m asking is for my child to have a right to live. That’s it. And I want her to have the same benefits and the same treatment as any other child with a disability. That’s all I’m asking for.”

Toddler spared as he’s airlifted out of hospital that wanted to remove his life support

SACRAMENTO, California, May 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The parents of a two-year-old California boy on life support have won a crucial interim victory in the fight to keep their son alive, the latest in a lengthy dispute over his condition and care.

Israel Stinson was airlifted to a hospital in an undisclosed location outside the United States on Saturday after weeks of searching for a facility that would provide him treatment in preparation for long-term care, in a case hinging on the contested issue of the legal definition of brain death.

The Sacramento-area Kaiser Permanente facility where Israel Stinson had been since mid-April had declared him brain dead shortly after his arrival, eschewing treatment since then and providing the child only minimal nutrition while acting to remove him from life support.

“Victory!” his Israel’s mother Jonee Fonseca said in a statement Sunday. “Israel Stinson was transferred out of Kaiser Permanente yesterday. He has been taken to another facility and is already receiving treatment.”

“It is remarkable that Israel was given more treatment in the first five hours at the new hospital than in more than five weeks at the Kaiser facility,” Life Legal Defense Fund (LLDF) Executive Director Alexandra Snyder told LifeSiteNews.

Fonseca said because of the sensitivity of her son’s case, the family is not yet prepared to release his location.

“But we can say this, in order for Israel to receive his badly needed care, he had to be transferred out of the United States,” Fonseca stated. “That’s right. After weeks and weeks of searching, no hospital facility in the United States would accept our son.”

The difficulty securing a facility to accept and treat Israel while the family sought long-term care stemmed from Kaiser’s doctors having declared him brain dead, despite the conflicting opinions of specialists retained by the family.

Snyder told LifeSiteNews that doctors at the facility where Israel is now have also said the boy is not brain dead.

“A neurologist and Israel’s pediatric specialist did an extensive examination and determined that Israel is not brain dead,” she said. “This doesn’t mean he is out of the woods, as he does have a severe brain injury. But at least he is being provided treatment and nutrition now.”

Israel’s mother celebrated the fact that her son is now being “treated like a patient” and receiving basic nutrition and care.

“Israel’s medical chart at Kaiser said he was deceased. But Israel is alive!” Fonseca said. “He is right now receiving nutrients and a treatment protocol for the first time in 6 weeks.”

Israel’s story began April 1 when he was brought to the Sacramento Mercy General ER with a severe asthma attack. After he was stabilized, Israel was moved to the pediatric unit at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where he suffered another attack resulting in cardiac arrest. The toddler was put on a ventilator, and then transferred April 12 to the Kaiser facility for treatment at the family’s request due to concern over the handling of his treatment during the second attack at UC Davis.

Less than 24 hours after his arrival at Kaiser, the hospital performed brain function testing on Israel, without the family’s full knowledge or consent and against their wishes, prompting Fonseca to contact LLDF for help.

The legal battle began with a temporary restraining order enjoining Kaiser from removing life support to allow the family to find an interim facility for Israel, the ultimate goal being long-term care. The family was looking at New Jersey for this since its state law does not allow for a declaration of brain death in cases where the family members believe that life continues until the heart stops beating.

Fonseca and Israel’s father Nate Stinson have maintained throughout that Israel has been responsive to their touch and voices, as well as music, and they have relied openly on their faith to get them through.

LLDF has worked with Pacific Justice Institute as the case has wound its way through the courts to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was again headed this past Monday before Israel’s transfer over the weekend from Kaiser.

While Israel’s situation has stabilized for the time being, his family’s Pacific Justice Institute attorneys say the little boy’s case broaches the issue of the state of California’s law regarding a determination of brain death.

“While an important goal of this case has been achieved, it has also raised serious questions about the constitutionality of the California Uniform Determination of Death Act,” Matt McReynolds stated in a report by The Sacramento Bee. “It has become clear that declarations of brain death do not always reflect medical consensus and do not comport with basic notions of due process. These legal claims have not been mooted, and we will be evaluating how best to pursue these important constitutional questions.”

Fonseca’s suit against Kaiser to prevent the facility from removing Israel from life support contended that the hospital’s declaration of brain death violated her constitutional rights of due process to determine her son’s care.

Pacific Justice Institute lead attorney Kevin Snider said the crisis in Israel’s case was over, but a reason and opportunity to challenge the law remains, and it will be up to Israel’s parents if they want to go forward with that.

After Israel’s transfer Saturday to a new hospital Fonseca thanked supporters on the family’s GoFundMe page, set up last month to help fund the toddler’s transfer to another facility. Donations on the page have reached $20,000, and Fonseca said that because of the support, “Israel was able to beat the odds and is now being cared for as a live human being.”

The prayers of supporters have “made all the difference,” Fonseca continued, giving her son the chance to recover. But with the quest to finally get him home still ongoing, she asked supporters to remain engaged in his case.

“We have a long road ahead,” Fonseca stated. “Our story is not yet over.”

The birth control pill shrinks women’s brains

monofasicaApril 15, 2015 ( – Women who use the birth control pill may be shrinking their brains and increasing their chances of developing Crohn’s disease, two new studies have found.

Neuroscientists from the University of California, Los Angeles found that the two main regions of the brain controlling emotion and decision-making are thinner in women who take the pill.

A study published April 2 in the journal Human Brain Mapping reports that the pill’s chemicals block the body’s natural hormones, altering the brain’s structure and function.

The study concluded that oral contraceptive use “was associated with significantly lower cortical thickness measurements in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex.”

The orbitofrontal cortex controls decision-making and the posterior cingulate manages emotions. And among the, both of these two areas were smaller than average in those taking the pill.

The UCLA scientists – who studied 90 women, 44 who were on the pill and 46 who were not – found that the pill can shrink parts of the brain but stated their data pointed to no conclusive results about the effects of chemical contraceptives on female behavior.

The researchers also did not determine whether this brain shrinkage is permanent, and indicated more research is needed.

“Future studies can investigate the time course of these effects. It is currently not known whether these effects appear immediately after initiating OC use, or gradually accumulate and increase over time,” they said. “Further, it is not known how long these effects persist after OC discontinuation.”

Another report released in March says the pill triples the chance of developing the incurable digestive condition known as Crohn’s disease.

Harvard gastroenterologist Doctor Hamed Kha conducted a study of 230,000 American women who had used the pill for at least five years, finding that the synthetic hormones contained in the contraceptives can

weaken the digestive system, creating ideal conditions for Crohn’s development.

The study also concluded that the abortifacient “morning after” pill, which carries a higher dose of synthetic hormones, can also increase the likelihood of developing Crohn’s.

British researchers also found a link between chemical contraceptives and Crohn’s in 2009.

Kha said it was not likely the pill alone would cause Crohn’s, and that genetics also came into play. But he told The Telegraph that he expects women genetically predisposed to Crohn’s to be warned soon to avoid the pill.

A doctor in the UK was already doing so.

“If you have a family history of Crohn’s I would advise against starting on the pill,”

said Doctor Simon Anderson, a consultant gastroenterologist at London Bridge hospital.

Hormonal contraceptives, especially the birth control pill, have a well-documented history of physically harming the women who take them.

In 2005 a division of the World Health Organization declared chemical contraceptives to be a Group 1 Carcinogen, the highest classification of carcinogenicity, used only when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.

The birth control pill has been linked to social ills and many medical problems, such as breast cancer, hair loss, increased risk of glaucoma and blood clots, hardening of the arteries and cervical cancer.

A 2014 study found the pill negatively affected women’s attraction to men, and a 2011 study linked the pill to reduction in women’s memory.

A specific type of hormone pill meant to treat acne and excessive hair growth in women which has often been used off-label as a contraceptive, was implicated in the deaths of 27 women in the Netherlands in 2013.

Researchers at the University of Missouri at Columbia found in 2005 that boys exposed certain synthetic hormones in the pill had a greater risk of prostate cancer and other urinary tract problems later in life.

Chemical contraceptives finding their way into water systems have adversely affected wildlife as well, mutating the gender of some species of fish and nearly causing extinction of others.

Shocking Report Will Reveal How Doctors Hasten Death to Harvest Patients’ Organs

by Bobby Schindler, Brad Mattes | Washington, DC | | 9/26/14 6:51 PM


A silent and deadly epidemic is moving across America. No one is broadcasting it. No one is writing about it. Almost no one is even talking about it. But every day in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices across the country, more and more of our medically vulnerable loved ones are being euthanized.

Indeed, some physicians have admitted to this behavior. A 1998 article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that hastening death is occurring and is not rare.

In a survey of 355 oncologists, “(15.8%) reported participating in euthanasia or physician assisted suicide,” and “38 of 53 (72%) oncologists described clearly defined cases of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.1

These decisions are being made by paid medical professionals. And loved ones, to their horror, are finding they’re not even part of the discussion.

The patients’ crimes? They’re charged with having insufficient quality of life, being too expensive to keep alive, and being beyond the reach of medical science and therefore beyond hope.

Such judgments may lie behind what seems to be an increase in the “brain death” diagnosis. The difficulty of making a pinpoint diagnosis in such complex neurological matters—and the lucrative financial incentives to harvest organs—will ultimately propel this issue into the forefront of public consciousness and discourse.

Not surprisingly, the current procurement market for human tissues and organs in the United States is booming, driven by insufficient supply and heavy demand.

According to The Milliman Report (see page 4), if all 11 tissues and organs could be harvested from a single patient declared brain-dead, however unlikely, the going rate for procurement would exceed half a million dollars.

If all costs related to those 11 transplants are counted—preparation, physicians’ services, post-op care and the like—the money involved exceeds $5.5 million.2

It’s crucial to shed a bright light on this menacing darkness, but we need your help.

Here are four ways you can assist:

First, we need to hear from healthcare workers and professionals. If you’ve witnessed this happening in your work environment, please come forward and share your observations with us.Perhaps you or someone you know has inside knowledge of the organ donation process as it relates to a situation of euthanasia.

Second, we need your personal stories. We’re also looking for family members willing to share healthcare experiences involving a loved one that are similar to what we’ve conveyed in this letter. Please trust that if you request your identity be held in confidence, that confidentiality will not be violated.

Third, we need people willing to be interviewed on camera. We have a golden opportunity to educate more Americans to euthanasia in our midst. A special episode of the Emmy© award-winning pro-life television series Facing Life Head-On with Brad Mattes plans to feature real-life accounts of people sharing specifics of this American travesty.

The program reaches tens of millions of American households, so imagine the number of people whose eyes could be opened. America will be told what is happening to the elderly, the chronically sick and the cognitively disabled. If necessary, we can keep the identity of our TV guests confidential.

Finally, we need your prayers. This is, first and foremost, a battle against powers and principalities. We cannot hope to win on our own. Only the power of prayer will permit us to expose this hideous and inhumane attack on precious human life. If you prefer not to be on television, we still need you.

Our ultimate goal is to build a network of people who can speak publicly about these issues to educate others regarding this horrific, unnoticed practice. This may entail speaking to pro-life groups or others sympathetic to protecting innocent human life; addressing a state legislative committee regarding pending legislation; or speaking to a hospital ethics committee as they struggle with a challenging situation or policy.

Our goal is to develop a network of experienced experts who can speak directly to the issues at hand. This is literally a life-and-death matter. And we who are blessed to have life and a voice must intervene to help those who are in danger of having life taken from them. We hope to hear from you soon. Reach us by e-mail or visit the Euthanasia page on the Life Issues Institute website.

For more information about this troubling issue, visit and Sincerely for the vulnerable among us, Bradley Mattes Bobby Schindler Executive Director Executive Director Life Issues Institute Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network

UCLA Neurologist: Jahi “Alive!” “Awake!”

By Wesley J. Smith, October 4, 2014

I know and deeply respect Dr. Alan Shewmon, professor emeritus in neurology at UCLA. He is a world renowned expert on the brain, particularly dealing with pediatrics.

A source has sent me a declaration under penalty of perjury that Shewmon signed on October 3, 2014, testifying that Jahi McMath is not only alive, but now also awake! From his declaration (my emphases):

Based on the materials provided to me so far, I can assert unequivocally that Jahi currently does not fulfill the diagnostic criteria for brain death. The materials include extensive medical records from St. Peter’s University Hospital, which I am still in the process of reviewing, videos of Jahi moving her hand and her foot in response to verbal requests by her mother, images from an EEG done in her apartment on 9/1/14, images of a brain MRI scan done at Rutgers on 9/26/2014, and heart rate variability analysis by my colleague Dr. Calizto Machado based on the EKG channel from 9/1/14 EEG.

Wait, there’s more: Jahi does not currently fulfill criteria for brain death on several grounds.

First and foremost, the videos and the personal testimonies to me of several trustworthy witnesses of her motor responsiveness (yourself [lawyer Nolan], Drs. DeFina and Machado) leave no doubt that Jahi is conscious and can not only hear but even understand simple verbal requests (“move your hand,” “Move your foot,” even, “move your thumb.”)

Thus, the very first of the “three cardinal findings in brain death,” according to the American Academy of Neurology’s Practice Parameters for Determining Brain Death in Adults (and all other diagnostic criteria for brain death that have ever been proposed, for that matter)–namely “coma or unresponsiveness”–is not fulfilled.

More, Jahi now has periods: Corpses do not menstruate. Neither to corpses undergo sexual maturation. Neither is there any precedent in the medical literature of a brain-dead body beginning menarche and having regular menstrual periods.

The MRI: Jahi’s recent MRI scan shows vast areas of structural preserved brain, particularly the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum. There is major damage to the corpus callosum and the brainstem, particularly the pons…corresponding to the severe brainstem dysfunction that has been documented in her progress notes from St. Peter’s.

By contrast, the relative integrity of the cerebral cortex no doubt underlies her ability to understand language and to make voluntary motor responses.

Shewmon doesn’t blame the original diagnosing doctors. Clearly, Jahi is not currently brain dead. Yet, I have no doubt that at the time of her original diagnosis, she fulfilled the AAN diagnostic criteria, correctly and rigorously applied by the several doctors who independently made the diagnosis then…

She is an extremely disabled but very much alive teenage girl. Shewmon doesn’t believe in brain death–not from a religious but a scientific perspective. That is a heterodox position, with which I disagree when the condition is accurately diagnosed.

But no matter. He is not an advocate but medical doctor and scientist with an excellent worldwide reputation.

This is the kind of evidence I said was necessary for this case to go forward. The heft of Shewmon and Machado’s reputation compel the case be reopened.

Sometimes, we would be better heeding family observations than smugly assuming–as I have often seen in these kinds of cases–that they are only seeing what they want to see.

Good for Jahi’s family. Good for Bobby Schindler and the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network that went to their aid. And good for attorney Chris Dolan, who took a very unpopular case. Standing up to widespread scorn and derision is never easy–but so worth doing in the cause of what you see to be right.

To view video of Jahi moving hand and foot on command, go to original reference [http://www.nationalreview. com/human-exceptionalism/389564/ucla-neurologist-jahi-alive-awake-wesley-j-smith

A Reflection on the Muñoz Tragedy

Posted on February 13, 2014 by LLDF Staff

Many in the pro-life community are reflecting on two tragic stories with very different outcomes: the Munoz situation in Texas and the Benson situation in Canada. In both, the wife and mother was declared brain dead. In the Benson story, Iver Benson, son of Dylan Benson and his now deceased wife, Robyn, has been allowed to live. Read more on the still-developing story at, 

In the Munoz situation, the result was the heartbreaking loss of both mother and child. We offer our sincere condolences to both families faced with these tragic situations.

Texas Attorney Jeff Turner is a long-time friend of Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) who has supported our work over the years.  His reflection on the tragedy of the Baby Munoz situation is compelling and he has allowed LLDF to share it.

On Friday, January 24, the 96th District Courtroom in Tarrant County, Texas was the stage for a tragic tale, not told by idiots, but still one “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” And by nothing, I mean a profound absence. The tale is one that will be retold more often as medical technology advances to keep people alive, in this case, Marlise Munoz, who in November 2013 suffered a pulmonary embolism when she was fourteen weeks into her pregnancy. Her husband and her parents asked John Peter Smith Hospital to discontinue all life-sustaining treatment for her, which action indirectly would cause the death of her (and his) child in utero. They contend that the very doctors treating her reported that she was brain dead and recommended the withdrawal of such treatment. The hospital did not oblige their request, relying solely on a provision of the Texas Health & Safety Code that provides that a “person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatmentunder this subchapter from a pregnant woman.” (emphasis added).

Absent from the courtroom, however, was any mention of God as the Author of all human life, including that of Baby Munoz. The mystery of God’s purpose in permitting this tale to unfold will remain that—an impenetrable mystery. What can be known is that He willed Baby Munoz’ life into existence and that fact deserves some weight. It is congruent with America’s Judeo-Christian heritage that God be included in her judicial determinations. The United States Supreme Court still opens each session with “God save the United States and this honorable court.” Edith Jones, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, placed a replicated Harlan Bible (named after Justice John Marshall Harlan’s personal Bible which he donated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1906) prominently in her chambers “as a reminder to all who visit that we … remember our judgments are ultimately subject to a Divine standard.” The “Divine standard” is love: love of God and of neighbor, and love sometimes requires sacrifice of one’s own rights, interests, and desires for the benefit of another, like Baby Munoz. Love sometimes requires one to “wait for the Lord with courage.” Psalms 27:14. There was no mention of this “Divine standard” in the 96th District Court in determining the fate of Baby Munoz.

Also absent was any advocate for Mrs. Munoz or for Baby Munoz. Larry Thompson, the Assistant District Attorney who represented JPS Hospital, informed this writer that the appointment of an attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem had been considered; however, no such appointment was sought. This decision was a glaring error. An attorney appointed to zealously represent each party would have forced Mr. Munoz’ attorneys to prove his case. For example, does Mrs. Munoz’s medical condition satisfy the legal definition for “death?” The same Health & Safety Code states that a person is dead “when, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of the person’s spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions.” It further states that “if artificial means of support preclude a determination that a person’s spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions have ceased, the person is dead when, in the announced opinion of a physician, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function. Death occurs when the relevant functions cease.” Death must be pronounced before a doctor can discontinue artificial or mechanical means of supporting a person’s respiratory and circulatory systems. Because artificial means of support had been initiated when Mrs. Munoz first arrived at JPS Hospital, the fact whether “all” of her spontaneous brain function had stopped became a critical issue.

“Brain death” was introduced in 1968 by an ad hoc committee of the Harvard Medical School in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was introduced mainly to facilitate “organ harvesting” and to reallocate resources away from patients whose prognosis was unfavorable. Unfortunately, after three decades of clinical implementation, this standard has proven to be “conceptually flawed,” according to medical ethicist Dan Wikler of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a member of a 1981 presidential commission that recommended a uniform law defining death. There is no reliable way to determine “irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function” unless and until the entire brain has been destroyed; but, in order for this destruction to occur, the respiratory and circulatory functions must stop. Cases have occurred in which the patient met the test for “brain death” because an EEG could not detect electrical activity on his brain’s surface, but the patient clearly had functioning of the mid-brain and brain stem, and maybe even of the cortex. The brain may not be the exclusive central organizing organ of the human person. Doctors have reported over thirty cases of protracted survival of “brain dead” patients, ranging from one week to fourteen years.

No expert witness was called to testify on behalf of Mrs. Munoz. Instead, the assistant district attorney, representing the state and not Mrs. Munoz or Baby Munoz, simply stipulated that the mother was “brain dead.” That stipulation practically decided the case.

An advocate for Baby Munoz not only would have challenged the allegation of “brain death” but also would have raised the equally crucial question of whether his client was viable. Viability refers to the gestational age at which a child in utero has a 50% chance to survive outside the womb. Most doctors believe viability is reached around 24 weeks of gestation. However, there is no hard and fast rule. Amillia Taylor, for example, was born in 2006 at 21 weeks, 6 days of gestation (but under 20 weeks from fertilization). At nine inches and 10 ounces, she faced digestive and respiratory issues and a brain hemorrhage. Today, “she runs, she plays, she does things she’s not supposed to do.” But, again, the assistant district attorney essentially threw the case by stipulating that Baby Munoz was not viable.

Another gaping absence was any discussion of medical ethics. As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, there are two patients. The first rule of medical ethics is: Do no harm. Removing the ventilator (which supports but does not substitute for the respiratory system) from Mrs. Munoz obviously caused harm to Baby Munoz. He died. The second rule is: Take all reasonable action to give the patient a fair chance to live. All that Baby Munoz needed was 3 to 4 more weeks. This would not have been the first time a brain-dead pregnant woman delivered a baby. In 2012, in Michigan, Christine Bolden delivered twins before her respirator was removed. Dr. Cosmas Vandeven, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at University of Michigan hospital, said that an important ethical issue in such cases is whether a brain-dead woman would suffer by being kept on a respirator and undergoing a C-section. “Almost every parent would give their life for their child,” Dr. Vandeven opined. “But you need to get truly independent opinions: Are we sure we’re not causing harm to the mom?” Ms. Bolden’s brother said, “I know she wants the babies to be with us. This has brought our family together.”

In contrast, the Texas courtroom stage was filled with provocative commentary on Mrs. Munoz’ allegedly decaying corpse and the “smell of death.” Mr. Munoz’ attorneys pursued a backhanded ad hominem attack against JPS Hospital employees by accusing them of engaging in a scientific experiment with Mrs. Munoz’ body, thus questioning their motives. The defense failed to offer any alternative argument to its insistence that the Texas Health & Safety Code applies to a pregnant woman, whom it already had stipulated was dead, when the relevant subchapter at issue concerns only “qualified patient[s]” who have been diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition, Implicitly, it does not apply to a dead patient.

This writer does not question the motive of either the hospital employees or Mr. Munoz. This writer does question whether Mrs. Munoz or Baby Munoz received a fair hearing and whether all available legal and ethical arguments were presented.

In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth found no meaning or purpose in life after his wife’s death. Let us pray that Mr. Munoz will find meaning and purpose after the death of his wife and child. Let us pray further that our culture, including our judiciary, will strive to meet the Divine standard by which we all will be judged.


The author, Jeff Turner, is a lawyer, poet, and human rights activist. This article appeared in Texas for Life Coalition’s Blog at Used with permission.


Organ Transplantation and Informed Consent: Who Decides, You or the Government? What Are the Risks? What is Brain Death?

Recent news reports of responses in persons declared “brain dead” should have alerted everyone that “brain death” is not true death. These observed responses prevented the organ transplantation protocols from going further. Zack Dunlap later reported how he could hear discussions of his death, but he could not respond at that time. Val Thomas had flat brain waves for 17 hours before her response was observed. While these might be of only passing interest to many, it ought to be of grave concern to every citizen of the United States of America, and the rest of the world. (more…)