She was declared brain dead almost six weeks ago, but Taquisha McKitty remains in a Brampton hospital while her family fights to keep her plugged into a respirator.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Critical Care Society weighed in, saying the death certificate issued to McKitty should stand. The society’s president said the determination of neurological death isn’t taken lightly and follows a regimented testing procedure.
“We assess all of those basic functions that keep you and I alive and interacting with the world,” explained Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud.
“It’s as simple as, can you blink? Do your eyes react to light? Do you respond to pain or not respond to pain? Do you have the drive to breathe. And the final thing we always do is to see whether if we took them off the breathing machine, would they not breathe?”
McKitty was brought to Brampton Civic Hospital via ambulance on Sept. 14, after a drug overdose. Six days later, two physicians declared the 27-year-old mother to be brain dead and signed her death certificate.
Hospital staff planned to remove her ventilator, but two court injunctions have kept it in place.
The Brampton court that issued those injunctions heard repeatedly that McKitty failed most of the tests administered by doctors. Still, her body movements, well documented in amateur videos, continue to this day.
“Maybe we need to re-examine this whole concept of brain death because if someone’s brain dead… they shouldn’t still be moving around,” said Stanley Stewart, McKitty’s father.
Fox-Robichaud said movements aren’t necessarily signs of life and can be explained by looking at patients with spinal cord injuries.
“Those people will have movements, often severe movements for a period of time,” she said. “There’s no connection between their brain and their spinal cord. It’s completely severed. But they’ll have movements, and those are spasms because the nerves from the muscle go to the spinal cord and back again.”
Stewart said the family will continue to fight to keep her on life support.
“There is still life there,” he told CityNews. “Until that life is extinguished from natural causes or whatnot, we’re going to believe that she’s still here.”
The family is expected back in court on Nov. 6, when they will be making their final pleas for McKitty’s life.