This is interesting news:
You may remember Jahi McMath, who was declared brain dead almost three years ago now. Three years. I've written about her case here, here, and here. Her family was able to keep her on life support, her body has not deteriorated or decayed, and her heart has continued to beat. If your brain stem really is completely dead, this is highly unlikely. Her family says that she has even gone through puberty during this time.
They are suing the hospital where her original surgery was, and a court has ruled that they can bring evidence that she is alive (despite the fact that a death certificate was issued), as this makes a big difference to how much the original hospital can be sued for in malpractice.
Now the family has put up a video purporting to show that she is beginning to breathe on her own. The video shows a breathing monitor with numbers that counts her breaths per minute and purportedly shows her getting up to sixteen self-generated breaths in a minute, while her mother cheers her on. If true, this absolutely refutes any claim of whole-brain death. Without an operating brain stem, this is not possible. It now remains for the family to show this to "outsiders," because it isn't going to be deemed relevant in a court if the only people who claim to have seen it are already family members and friends of the family. If it's happening, they need to bring in some sort of agreed-upon witness to testify to it.
Could this be fake? I suppose it could. If they somehow got hold of such a breathing monitor, they could even have some other person hooked up to it when the numbers are showing. Most anything can be faked nowadays.
But as an epistemologist, I want to point something out: Sometimes the epistemic value of a piece of evidence is that it narrows the options if the hypothesis is false. Consider (my own special area of interest) the claims by the disciples that they personally talked with Jesus at length after his resurrection and ate with him. If they really did claim that (as I think they undoubtedly did), then whatever else was the case, they weren't just mistaken. Sometimes we want to keep open the idea that someone is just over-enthusiastic and is honestly mistaken about a controversial hypothesis. But when testimonial evidence is sufficiently specific and specifically striking, that possibility is closed off.
If Jahi McMath is not actually breathing like this on her own, then her family must be really bad people, engaging in an elaborate hoax for their own benefit. They can't any longer be seen as possibly just grieving parents who are "in denial" about the fact that their child is really brain dead. The choice has just become much starker.
In my opinion, that itself is some evidence for the conclusion that Jahi McMath is alive, because the elimination of the "grieving, mistaken people" option on the ~H side of things is going to make a difference to the probability of H (that Jahi is alive).
We will see how this plays out. There was already troubling evidence that the clinical diagnosis of brain death was mistaken. It was particularly troubling because it was double-checked at the time, by court order. This means it wasn't made in haste or without following protocol. If it was mistaken nonetheless, the cat is among the pigeons as far as trusting such diagnoses in other cases, particularly in cases (unlike Jahi's) where organ procurement is under consideration.
Speaking for myself, I rather hope Jahi's parents are vindicated. That's my own partisanship coming out. Also, it would be more to the credit of everybody if it were so. The hospital wouldn't even have to have been filled with cynical, wicked people trying to take life support away from a little girl. In that case, the original doctors would have been the ones who were just sincerely mistaken. Let's see if Jahi's family can show this to be so to the satisfaction of third parties.