Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Suit, Claiming Free Exercise Right, Seeks Voiding of Death Certificate

Late last month, a suit was filed in a California federal district court seeking to require the state of California to invalidate a death certificate issued two years ago when 13-year old Jahi McMath was declared brain dead.  However before the child's ventilator was removed, her mother transferred her to a facility in New Jersey, a state which has a religious exemption in its law to the brain-death standard.  Jahi's mother claims that Jahi now shows brain function.  The complaint (full text) in McMath v. State of California, (ND CA, filed 12/23/2015) seeks an injunction requiring California to restore all rights (including health care benefits) to Jahi, and requiring it to expunge records of the death certificate. Among the grounds for relief asserted by plaintiffs are the Free Exercise clause and RLUIPA. The complaint alleges in part:
Plaintiffs' sincerely held religious beliefs require that they provide ongoing medical care for any person who is alive, including JAHI McMath.... The issuance of a facially invalid (and now substantively inaccurate) death certificate ... created a situation in which Plaintiffs were unable to exercise their religion....
The McMath lawyers issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit, and NJ.com reports on the suit.