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Family fights in court to keep brain dead woman on life support

Last Updated Oct 17, 2017 at 7:01 pm EST

“We’re dealing fundamentally with the issue of life and death,” Hugh Scher, the lawyer representing Taquisha MckItty’s family told the court. “Fundamentally…Taquisha’s life.”

Taquisha Desirae McKitty has been legally dead since Sept. 20. Today, she continues to lay in a Brampton hospital bed and family and friends say she’s moving her body.

The 27-year old mother was brought to Brampton Civic Hospital on Sept. 14, suffering from a drug overdose. Tests revealed she had a mix of oxycodone, benzodiazepines, marijuana and cocaine in her system.

After six days, doctors declared her brain dead – even signing her death certificate – despite her family’s wishes.

In Canada, “brain dead” or “neurologically deceased”  is one of several legal definitions of death.

The family filed an injunction to keep McKitty on life support. On Sept. 28 Superior Court Justice M.J. Shaw extended that injunction to Oct. 17 – Tuesday – so that the family could obtain a second. opinion from another physician and conduct a battery of tests.

On Tuesday, Dr. Paul A. Byrne, a retired neonatalist took the stand. Byrne has experience working with people who were at one point considered brain dead, but were revived. He told the court that he doesn’t believe “brain death” necessarily constitutes death.

“What I believe is that the aspects of the functioning or non-functioning of the nervous system are relevant to the determination of death, but they aren’t the only ones,” Byrne said.

He admitted that he believed there is “no science behind brain death” and believes that one of the reasons it was created was to facilitate more organ donations. McKitty is an organ donor.

Byrne has not had the chance to physically examine Taquisha because he is not licensed to practice in Ontario. Instead, he requested a myriad of tests be performed on Taquisha by physicians at the hospital, so that he could analyze the results.

The family is now seeking another injunction so that they can conduct another test. This test involves filming Taquisha for 72 hours to better asses whether her movements are signs of consciousness or reflexes.

“She is a living young lady,” Byrne told CityNews outside Brampton Civic Hospital yesterday. “You don’t need to be a physician to see that. She’s not dead and is deserving of treatment.”

His testimony is expected to continue Tuesday afternoon. Justice Shaw still has to rule on his qualifications as an expert witness and if his testimony and evidence can be considered.

The William Osler Health group declined comment on the case, but said two experienced physicians make the determination of death.

“Osler physicians follow a recognized standard of practice and criteria for neurological determination of death,” hospital spokespeople said.

The family launched a gofundme campaign to assist in the legal challenge, which they claim is costing close to $80,000.