Health Law Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Paul Janda - Learning the Law, Changing the Law

January 05, 2018

Boyd alum Dr. Paul Janda ('16) put his health law expertise to very good use last year when he helped craft and pass a Nevada brain death statute. Although the law has recognized brain death for some four decades, it is not always clear whether brain death has actually occurred. As a neurologist and lawyer, Dr. Janda could bring the perfect background to the problem, which received considerable public attention in the case of Jahi McMath in 2014. 

 As a teenager living in California, Ms. McMath suffered a cardiac arrest after a tonsillectomy and was declared dead by brain criteria. Her parents sued to maintain her medical care, and an agreement was reached in which the parents were able to transfer her to a facility that would provide continued care.

Nevada had a similar case in 2015 involving a college student. A month after complications from an appendectomy, Aden Hailu was declared brain dead at a Reno hospital. Soon after, Hailu’s father sought and received a court order to keep his daughter on intensive care. When the case went before the Nevada Supreme Court, the justices unanimously agreed that the hospital’s brain death standards might not satisfy state law. As a result, the hospital continued to treat Hailu until January 2016, when her heart stopped beating.

 Enter Dr. Janda. He is the first and only board-certified neurologist-lawyer in Nevada, and with his assistance, the Nevada legislature passed Assembly Bill 424, which provides uniform legal guidelines for the determination of brain death, using evidence-based standards set by the American Academy of Neurology. Under the new law, declarations of brain death will be based squarely on the best medical knowledge.