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Theologian: 'Brain-dead' doesn't really count

Posted By Bob Unruh On 12/28/2013 @ 5:34 pm In Faith,Front Page,Health,Politics,U.S. | No Comments

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The chief of a foundation that is responsible for the International Standard Version of the Holy Bible, a trained theologian, says the family of Jahi McMath has a legitimate argument against the hospital’s contention that she is “brain-dead” and her medical treatments should be halted.

She’s not dead.

At least, not according to the Bible’s definition, said Dr. William Welty, a Ph.D. who graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and later taught New Testament Greek at Simon Greenleaf University.

Welty told Christopher Dolan, an attorney representing the family of Jahi McMath, that he could be an expert witness on death according to the Bible, in an email that was made available to WND.

The fight currently is going on in Oakland, Calif., over the 13-year-old girl’s future, who was declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy surgery went horribly wrong. A court has given the family until Monday before the hospital is allowed to discontinue all medical treatment.

“I have followed the Jahi McMath medical debacle for a number of days now. I am a professional theologian in the evangelical tradition of which Ms. McMath’s mother Nailah Winkfield appears to be part,” he wrote.

“As I am an expert in biblical theology, including Greek and Hebrew, with respect to the question of what evangelical Christians believe about death, I might be able to be of assistance in the way of providing expert testimony about what the conservative biblical tradition to which Ms. McMath’s mother belongs actually teaches, which is that death is defined not as absence of brain waves but rather the lack of a circulating blood supply,” he wrote.

“As the Bible states that the life of the flesh is in the blood (citing Leviticus in the Hebrew Scriptures) and not in brain wave activity, perhaps a compromise stipulation could be presented to ask the court to order that if Ms. McMath is disconnected from life support, if her heart continues to beat on its own that she should be maintained by fluid nutrition at the hospital’s expense, given that the hospital’s negligence is the proximate cause of this difficulty.”

Welty told WND that the Bible doesn’t define death as a cessation, reduction or absence of brain activity.

It defines life as being in the blood, and “as a closely held religious belief,” the family of the 13-year-old has a right to practice their faith.

He said while science contends that it understands death, and life, and the narrow divide, he pointed out a recent report that indicates that may not be so clear.

According to a Scripps Howard News Service report only days ago, “there’s growing evidence that revival is possible for at least some patients whose hearts and lungs have stopped working for many minutes, even hours. And brain death – when the brain irreversibly ceases function – is also proving less open and shut.”

“For decades, doctors have recorded cases where people immersed in very cold water have been revived after hours have gone by,” the report said. “Many studies have found that hypothermia protects the brain by decreasing its need for oxygen and staving off cell death. Body cooling has become common for many patients after cardiac arrest.”

The report continued, “Defining brain death is becoming more complex as researchers find signs of activity in both human and animal subjects whose brainwaves at first show they’ve ‘flat-lined’ to the point that there is no brain function. … Scientists at the University of Montreal reported in September on the case of one Romanian patient who was in an extreme deep coma after treatment with a powerful anti-epileptic drug. Although the electroencephalogram (EEG) showed no activity in the man’s cortex (the master processor of the brain), there was activity in the hippocampus, the region responsible for memory and learning.

“Just how conscious the brain remains after cardiac arrest in frequently debated and researched. Various studies of cardiac arrest survivors shows many experience profound mental or emotional change. About 20 percent of survivors say they heard or saw something while they were clinically dead,” the report said.

Welty said the simple facts are that science thought it understand death, but doesn’t.

He said the one absolute regarding death is that the body tissues decay, and if that’s not happening, there remain questions.

And with those questions unanswered, he said, hospitals and others should choose the conservative path and not take positive action that would bring about death.

The AP reported that several nursing homes and outside groups have proposed moving the 13-year-old so she can be kept on life support.

The report said, “A religious group that has a facility in New York is among the organizations that have offered to care for Jahi McMath, said the lawyer, Christopher Dolan. He declined to identify those making the offers but described them as ‘people who are firmly committed to the concept of life.’”

Her case developed at Children’s Hospital Oakland, which now wants to remove a ventilator and IV fluids that are being provided as treatment.

The family reports she underwent treatment for sleep apnea, and after she woke up, she started bleeding from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo appointed an outside expert to examine the girl before ruling this week he would order the hospital to continue its treatments until 5 p.m. Monday.

There’s another “brain-death” case also developing now that almost is the reverse of the California case.

According to NBC News, Marlise Munoz was found unconscious and unresponsive, in her 14th week of pregnancy, by her husband in their home near Fort Worth, Texas.

Doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital said she was brain-dead and her husband, Erick Munoz, moved to have treatments halted.

Physicians, however, said they legally were not allowed to do that because of the unborn child Marlise carries.

J.R. Labbe, vice president of the JPS Health Network, said, “We cannot withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient.”

The stories follow the pattern set in the years-long battle for the life of Terri Schiavo, which went to the highest levels of the U.S. court system and through the halls of the legislature.

She was incapacitated physically and mentally when she suddenly collapsed in her home, and her husband successfully moved in the courts to have her deprived of fluids and nutrients so that she would die.

There now exists a foundation bearing her name, Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, which has worked to intervene in other cases in which patients have been described as “vegetative.”

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