Misreporting Human Interest Stories: Jahi McMath and Obesity
Around Christmastime the media usually pulls out the best of the human interest stories they have been sitting on or that they can scrounge up on short notice. Local charities are a great source for these types of stories, but the media will hit you with a hard one to get to your emotional core. In a very short span of time, a brain dead teen went from patient intake to CNN human interest story. The story tugs heart strings, paints a picture in line with the liberal narrative, and misreports the story to prevent real questions or a good use of the subject.
Thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath went into the hospital for surgery with her loving family beside her. She was pronounced brain dead shortly after the recovery from the surgery. The family is using a personal injury lawyer to stop the hospital from ending care (unplugging) since she is legally dead. Pro bono of course, but what great publicity and free advertising for him. The San Francisco Examiner published a Christmas Day blurb by McMath’s lawyer, where he once again states it was a “routine tonsillectomy”. Please note that the girl was admitted on Dec 9th, declared brain dead on Dec 12th, and this blew up on CNN within a week.
Every single report states that it is a simple tonsillectomy, but that is not the whole truth. The media knows this, but fails to report it and continues the charade. The court documents state that it was far more involved. This is not a simple tonsils-out-and-ice-cream-later procedure but a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UP3). The AP and Huffpo call it a simple tonsillectomy despite there being court documents that show it was a UP3. A UP3 is invasive, risky and comes with complications, per the NY Times and many sleep disorder forums. They want you to think this was just a tonsillectomy to help the eventual shakedown by the family with this lawyer’s help because readers will be shocked to think someone could die from a tonsillectomy.
A simple question no media member is asking is why a thirteen-year-old is getting a UP3. A UP3 is a surgery to help people suffering from sleep apnea. They never say she suffered from sleep apnea, because to mention it would distort the narrative. How is a thirteen-year-old already suffering from sleep apnea? Google Image search results show Jahi McMath as obese.
This is the world of obese America, where we see a rise in sleep apnea due to 1/3 of the US being overweight and 1/3 being obese. You probably have a family member with one of those sleep masks to keep an oxygen flow going, and they are probably overweight. This should not affect a thirteen-year-old. Kids are developing not only adult problems, but problems that only fat adults have.
Why did the doctor go the UP3 route? Why a UP3 on such a young person when UP3s have the high chance of not ending the sleep apnea over the long term? Did they try a weight loss program? Did the medical professionals want to rack up some surgery fees? That is not an accusation, but no one is asking the question. This surgery has plenty of side effects and risks that are compounded when a patient is obese. It is a testament to how fantastic our medical technology has become that people would rather go under the knife for things they could correct with weight loss. Surgeons have become a social safety net for poor eating decisions. People do not think twice and just sign the release forms. This is a conversation the media could start, using this teenager as an everyday example.
The greater conversation is about obesity and the culpability of the obese themselves. There are money quotes from the mother of McMath about her child being perfectly fine before going to that hospital, but no one bothers to mention her daughter being obese to the point of needing surgery to prevent her from dying in her sleep. Obese is not fine. Maybe they did try a weight loss program, and momma didn’t ‘mom up’ and work hard on getting her kid in shape.
All surgery comes with risk, and obesity sets up people for long term health problems. The media does not want to use the Jahi McMath story as a human interest story to get people talking about medicine, obesity and health. It’s a complex world, after all, so we should take care of what we have control over, and pull back on hyperventilating over abstract or far-away problems, right? Readers are already tense from holiday stress, so scratch at those primed hearts with a horror story. The media wants Americans to see a young black girl killed by a heartless, cold and cruel medical system, as though your child may go in for a tonsillectomy and come out in a body bag.