Former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in over the weekend on the case of the late Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who died after surgery last month at Children’s Hospital Oakland.
“Look I’m not a neurologist and I wouldn’t pretend to know the level – if any – of Jahi’s brain function,” Huckabee said.
That’s where he should’ve stopped, although he’d already uncorked some blatant falsehoods even before that point.
This girl is dead. Not in a coma. Not in a persistent vegetative state. She’s dead, rest her soul.
This is not just the opinion of doctors at the hospital at which she underwent her surgery; a pediatric neurologist from Stanford University agreed she’s dead. The Alameda County Coroner has issued a death certificate.
Her family isn’t protecting her life; her life has ended. They aren’t trying to save their daughter; she’s beyond saving. “Whose life is it?” Huckabee asks – it’s nobody’s life, because Jahi McMath is dead.
Medicine isn’t a matter of faith or opinion – it’s a matter of science. Once there’s no activity in the brain or brain stem, it doesn’t spontaneously start again. Sanctity-of-life arguments only make sense when life is at stake.
Surely Huckabee isn’t advocating that every dead person whose grieving relatives can’t let go must be kept hooked up to machines indefinitely at their request; that would be a fiscal impossibility, an absolute abdication of medical ethics, and a travesty of human dignity.
For Huckabee – a politician and commentator who said last month that God hasn’t yet told him whether to run for president again in 2016, and who some believe is welcoming such speculation for other reasons – to insert himself into this debate constitutes reprehensible pandering. For him to connect it to issues like abortion and the Holocaust borders on immorality.