Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ventilating The Dead: Canadian Case, McMath Update

Dylan Benson of British Columbia, Canada, is keeping the pregnant body of his brain-dead wife Robyn ventilated in order that their son might develop inside her and be born. Robyn was 22 weeks pregnant when she was struck dead by a brain hemorhage. Benson is using donated funds to pay for Robyn's ventilation; when his son is delivered by C-section, he will then bury his wife.

This case is strikingly parallel, of course, to last month's Marlise Munoz case in Texas, but there are also some striking differences. In the Benson case, the husband and the hospital agree on the aim of saving the developing fetus, and the husband believes his late wife would have wanted the child saved. In the Munoz case, both husband and parents wanted ventilation removed, and husband believed that his wife, an EMT, would not have wanted to be kept hooked up to machinery. Benson was 22 weeks pregnant when she died; Munoz only 14. Munoz's fetus went without oxygen for the same period of time that Munoz herself did; the lack of oxygen that killed her brain left her developing fetus devastated. But Benson was still breathing, though unresponsive, when her husband found her and rushed her to the hospital; it is possible that her fetus was unaffected by her brain hemorrhage.

Meanwhile, last week, a video was posted on the Keep Jahi McMath On Life Support Facebook page, purporting to show the feet of Jahi McMath, the brain-dead 13-year-old whose parents are keeping her on ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration, responding to cold stimulus. The video has since been pulled, but remains widely available on the web. A female voice on the video says, "I don't understand how a brain-dead person could do this." But spinally-mediated movement by brain-dead persons has been documented for a long time.

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