Life Legal has been asked to assist in the Canadian case of Taquisha McKitty, a 27-year-old woman who suffered a severe brain injury after a drug overdose.
Taquisha was declared brain dead by doctors at Brampton Civil Hospital in Ontario, Canada on September 14. Since then, she has been moving her legs and torso in response to her family’s voice.
A local reporter visited Taquisha and produced this video showing her movements.
Doctors are attributing the movements to spinal cord reflexes. However, studies have shown that spinal reflex movements cease after 72 hours. Taquisha has been in the hospital for over two months and her movements continue to increase.
Canada revised its guidelines on determining brain death in 2008, in response to a national shortage of organ donors. The new guidelines grant wide latitude to doctors and hospitals to determine whether a patient is brain dead, causing concern that physicians may “declare death significantly earlier, and with greater chance of error, than previous brain death guidelines.”
A noted attorney and bioethicist fears that the guidelines also “dramatically increase the potential to misdiagnose as ‘brain dead’ patients who are simply suffering from temporary, reversible neurological states.”
Life Legal is working with Canadian attorney Hugh Scher, who is representing Taquisha’s family. Scher argues that the guidelines violate Taquisha’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada’s counterpart to our Bill of Rights:
“The non-consensual decisions by the Respondent to unilaterally withdraw mechanical ventilation, despite the fact that the Applicant’s heart continues to beat and she is alive according to her religious beliefs and her Christian faith, runs contrary to the presumption in favour of the sanctity of human life and represents a violation of s.7 of the Charter.”
This case has enormous implications for the protection of vulnerable life in Canada and elsewhere. While our laws are different, the principles used to decide Taquisha’s fate will inevitably make their way into similar cases in the U.S.
I will be in Toronto next week to attend oral arguments in Taquisha’s case and to participate in a feature film on laws governing euthanasia and assisted suicide around the globe.
Please pray for Taquisha and her family, as well as for her legal team.