Mike Huckabee on the Jahi McMath case

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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • JohnW

    Please Huck, run baby run! I’m totally up for another GOP primary clown show in 2016.

  • Teri

    Well said. I have commented repeatedly on Huckabee’s facebook page and his web page letting him know just how egregious his statements are. This is not a pro-life issue at all. I could never vote for a man who has such a knee jerk response to a situation and is willing to perpetuate lies about the condition of this child (which is dead). He is making statements about things that he knows absolutely nothing about. This was not the sword he should have taken up. Really really bad decision and choice of words on his part.

  • Chiriko

    I like Mike as a person, but I think he should be backing off the flame storm of keeping up with the ignorant media circus that knows nothing about medicine like this girl had a “routine” “botched” surgery.

    Did the hospital handle the initial situation with the family poorly when the girl ended up in cardiac arrest? Quite possible the problem started right here with a social worker that didn’t address the very delicate situation with the kind of tact that is needed. It’s possible the social worker who didn’t know the family didn’t know the bad news yet was already forcing the family to donate her organs instead of sitting them down with a neurologist from the start stating their daughter has just died and there is nothing they can do to bring her back. Thanks to HIPAA laws the hospital cannot state if the surgery was correctly done (most likely the surgeon did everything correctly and still she started to bleed because of how high risk the surgery was) so Mike is blindly following the ignorant media circus like medical truth like everyone else which makes him look bad.

    I would be addressing the issue from the point that the hospital took great lengths to accommodate the family who initially just wanted her to stay connected until Christmas and then the blood thirsty lawyer wanting his money cut of the settlement money which can max out at 250,000 dollars in this case started feeding ideas into the family’s head that they will become millionaires which probably will not happen. There should be strict laws in the US that override patient satisfaction cards when it comes to hospital hygiene. It’s not hygienic to have 8 relatives with their dirty shoes crowding a small ICU area which very sick children in it. In third world countries that cannot afford an MRSA infection on an ICU patient brought in from an outside visitor limit the amount of visitors a patient in the ICU can receive at a given time to only 2 relatives. No whining about racial rights, no whining about my relative is more special than any other patient in the hospital, the rules should be set in stone by federal law to avoid hospital infections which are deadly and a strain to limited hospital resources.

    The relatives of other children in the ICU could technically start a lawsuit against the McMath family because their child got a staph infection because 8 relatives were sitting in the ICU all day being an infection risk. I don’t see the mass media seeing things on the hospital’s point of view. They sugar coat this family as godly saints instead of questioning why did they allow Jahi’s weight to balloon out of control. If this child had survived this surgery and continued living with her current unhealthy diet, she would have ended up as a 400 pound adult straining the healthcare system and wouldn’t have lived a long healthy life as an adult anyways. I would like it if Fox News spun this media circus to the point of view that this sad case is a result of the social acceptance of the obesity epidemic and a massive high risk throat surgery should never be the standard for a 13 year old child.

  • JohnW

    This case has an opposite in Texas. 33-year old woman collapsed from a pulmonary embolism and was declared brain dead. She and her husband, both paramedics, had made it known to family that they wouldn’t want to kept alive by artificial means if the circumstance ever arose. Husband and parents both asked to have life support removed in November. Hospital discovered she was 14 weeks pregnant and refused, apparently due to a Texas law about removing life support when there is a fetus. Guess those male legislators in Texas know best. I’m sure they will pony up a few million bucks to support the child if it is born with defects due to oxygen deprivation and other trauma during the mother’s collapse and not having the rest of the support a fetus normally receives from the mother’s body throughout pregnancy.