Professor David Faigman has been front and center helping the media and public understand the legal fight over Jahi McMath, the Oakland 13-year-old declared brain-dead by Children’s Hospital in Oakland, but whose parents went to court to keep her on a ventilator. The struggle is over the definition of death.
“The Jahi McMath case is profoundly tragic at so many levels,” said Faigman, John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law, and Associate Dean of UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy.
“The most immediate, of course, is the death of Jahi and the incredible loss the family suffered. The case is tragic also because of all that has occurred since and, in particular, the pursuit of a legal remedy for what was a terrible personal tragedy.”
“However, it is beyond dispute, legally, medically, or ethically, that Jahi died. Medical technology, of course, now gives us the capacity to maintain certain bodily organs, such as the heart and lungs, long past brain death. So the question arises, how should we define ‘death,’ if the heart and lungs still function, but the brain does not? This is not a novel question, nor is it controversial. Death comes from the cessation of function of either the heart or the brain; both need not cease for death to occur.“
In fact, Faigman noted, in many transplant situations, doctors keep the heart, lungs and other organs functioning past brain death in order to maintain their viability for use in other people. Indeed, if death was reached only when the heart stopped beating, these transplant cases would all be potential homicides. This is not, nor can it be, an acceptable standard of practice, he said.
“In the end, the legal issue in the Jahi McMath case is not a close one. Unfortunately, however, for the lay public, it was turned into a circus on the premise that it was a debatable issue of law. In the end, such sensationalism does not serve the family, medicine, the law, or society very well,” Faigman said.
Professor Joel Paul spoke with Mother Jones about H&M’s use of “sumangali” labor, in which young Indian girls from poor, rural families are recruited to work in clothing factories on the promise they will earn money for a dowry. Paul argued that increasing wages for the girls would not cut into corporate profits. Read more of the column here.
Frank H. Wu
Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu was again ranked among the nation’s top five “Most Influential People” in legal education by The National Jurist. The article credits Wu’s “blunt style,” which “makes him a refreshing voice in legal education.” Read more here. Follow Wu here.
Fred Acomb '90
Fred Acomb ’90 of Miller Canfield was profiled in the Oakland County Legal News. He is a litigator with experience in international arbitration. Read more here.
Karen Frank '87, Linda Kattwinkel '91
Karen Frank ’87 and Linda Kattwinkel ’91 are among the speakers at an upcoming event, “Illegal Instagram, Fair Use Issues of Photography of Art,” sponsored by the UC Hastings Fashion, Art, and Design Law Society, Jan. 23, 2014. Frank, past president of the Copyright Society of the USA, is a partner at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass in San Francisco. Kattwinkel is a visual artist as well as a practicing attorney. She is the author of Legalities, a column on legal issues for artists and designers. The event is moderated by Professor Ben Depoorter. Register here.
--Jan. 13, 2014