Sadly, Joan Rivers became another missing person on life support during the past several days. Lost to eternity on August 28th from a cardiac arrest during a routine endoscopy, her brain death was initially reported as a “medically induced coma.” She remained on life support for an entire week before being allowed to pass. Respectfully, the family reconciled her fate with their love, choosing to withdraw life support and treating her with the dignity owed to every human being.
Comparable to Joan Rivers, Jahl McMath was abducted nine months ago following a tonsillectomy that resulted in massive blood loss and brain death. Ms. McMath was placed on life support at the age of thirteen. Unfortunately, Ms. McMath’s family refused to reconcile her fate with their love. She was admitted to potential eternity of the pediatric ICU at Peter’s University Children’s Hospital in New Jersey; living the reminder of her life as doll with real live body functions.
AMBER Alert – America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response – was established in 1996. The program was originally named in honor of 9 year-old Amber Hagerman; found murdered in Texas after being abducted while riding her bicycle. This program partners law-enforcement, transportation agencies, broadcasters, cell phones and social media in sending urgent messages when a missing or exploited child is reported. The primary goal is to galvanize entire communities in search and rescue efforts.
Who will rescue the dignity of Jahl McMath? Does her life matter more or less than Joan Rivers? Ideally, an entire community of healthcare professionals, social workers, judicial officers, religious leaders and parents would be speaking publically on this presumed private matter. Incidents of child abuse and abduction have all too frequently gone unreported and unaddressed by the general public. Is Ms. McMath being treated with the same apparent disregard because it’s a family matter?
It is time to declare a JAHL Alert for any missing person kept on life support for an extended period of time. The public needs to be better informed of the atrocities and exploitations committed against both children and adults who are shackled to life support. Nelson Mandela and Ariel Sharon were both recent victims of this dehumanization. While tragic, Joan Rivers’ did not die in vain. Through having her life support withdrawn in a timely manner, the example portrays how to love and dignify a human being who suffers brain death.