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California Family Struggles to Get Surgeries for Teen

APTOPIX Tonsillectomy-Brain-Dead-Girl

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The family of a 13-year-old California girl declared brain dead after tonsil surgery is encountering difficulty in obtaining two surgeries that she needs to undergo before she can be safely transferred to a long-term care facility.

A lawyer for Children's Hospital Oakland said Tuesday that it is unwilling to allow an outside doctor to fit Jahi McMath with the breathing and feeding tubes that the family has requested.

The hospital will not permit the procedures to be performed on its premises because Jahi is legally dead in the view of doctors who have examined her, lawyer Douglas Straus wrote in a letter to the girl's family.

"Performing medical procedures on the body of a deceased human being is simply not something Children's Hospital can do or ask its staff to assist in doing," he said.

The refusal appeared to reverse the position articulated Monday by a hospital spokesman. He said the hospital would allow a doctor retained by the family to insert a feeding tube and to replace the oral ventilator keeping Jahi's heart beating with a tracheal tube - surgical procedures that would stabilize Jahi if she is moved to a facility willing to keep caring for her.

Christopher Dolan, the lawyer for Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, said he received the news as he tried to confirm the conditions under which the hospital would have allowed a visiting doctor and nail down the long-term care facility that might accept the girl as a patient. Dolan said he has been talking with the New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, N.Y., an outpatient client for people with traumatic brain injuries, and with an unnamed facility in Arizona.

The New York facility didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

"They're speaking out of both sides of their mouths. They say one thing and we go down that road, and then they say something else," Dolan said of hospital officials. "The hospital said, `Bring us a doctor' and we said, `Tell us the conditions' and now, they've wasted a half a day of our time. We don't have much time."

Hospital spokesman Sam Singer said later: "This is academic. They have not produced a single physician."

Meanwhile, a state appeals court on Tuesday refused to order the hospital to insert the tubes, saying the issue has to go first to the lower court judge who has ordered the hospital to keep the girl on a ventilator until Jan. 7 pending the family's appeal. The 1st District Court of Appeal said it would consider the issue at a later date, if necessary.

Straus, the hospital's lawyer, reiterated in his letter that the hospital would release the girl's body as soon as her family provided a detailed plan outlining how the move would be accomplished and written permission from the coroner. But he said neither has been submitted.

"No facility has stated, unconditionally or otherwise, that it is prepared to immediately accept Jahi's body," he wrote.

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy and related procedures at Children's Hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. Her family said she went into cardiac arrest after she started coughing up blood in the recovery room. She was declared brain dead three days later. The hospital then moved to take her off the machines that are keeping her heart and lungs going a few days before Christmas.

Doctors at Children's Hospital and an independent pediatric neurologist from Stanford University have concluded Jahi is brain dead.

Her family, citing religious beliefs and the hope that she will pull through, wants to continue life support. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo initially ruled that doctors could remove her from the ventilator at 5 p.m. Monday, but two hours before the deadline gave the family another week to find a place to move her.

Straus filed papers Monday in both the state appeals court and in a federal court where Jahi's mother also has sued. He is opposing the family's request for an emergency order to keep Jahi on a ventilator indefinitely.

"The Superior Court correctly concluded, after three days of hearings and based on uncontroverted evidence, that Ms. McMath is, sadly, deceased," the papers state. "Turning off a ventilator that assists in delivery of oxygen of a dead person causes no irreparable harm - regardless of the parental or religious beliefs of the decedent's family."

The federal court has said it does not plan to act on the request until the case has worked its way through the state courts.

Join the discussion

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linda faye January 01 2014 at 8:58 AM

I know that this is a hard thing to do but you must let her go. If the family love their daughter, they should not want to see her bed ridden for possibly years.

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1 reply
tef72476 linda faye January 01 2014 at 9:48 AM

Hopefully time will help her family understand and let her go in peace..

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fjording January 01 2014 at 10:49 AM

They are now talking about moving the body to a 'Terry Schiavo' inspired long-term care facility with 12 beds right here on Long Island, a few miles from my electronics lab. Now if this happens, WHO is going to pay to maintain cellular function on this corpse? Is it coming out of the tax money I pay to Suffolk County, New York for my business? Is the facility, a 'nonprofit', doing this out of the 'goodness of their hearts' and paid for by other suckers who think their dead ones are coming back to life? And why do the bleeding heart lawyers and judges keep supporting this farce? Several independent sources have declared Jahi legally DEAD,DECEASED, so why is it even taking up court time, much less being moved up the ladder to higher and higher jurisdictions? Harvest her organs, pull the plug, and bury the body-case sorted!

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2 replies
Beautiful Rita fjording January 01 2014 at 10:51 AM

BINGO..... they aren't paying for it and they refuse to accept the girl is dead.

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1 reply
jspiritfoot Beautiful Rita January 01 2014 at 11:03 AM

How do you know who is paying?

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jspiritfoot fjording January 01 2014 at 11:02 AM

Say that when it's your child fjording

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mmcdona484 January 01 2014 at 10:17 AM

My son was hit by a car and was killed immediately. The body was brought back to life and the doctors had to work for 45 minutes but came to the conclusion he was brain dead. He is in a better place and is no longer suffering. I was not given a choice and I would not have fought the doctors. The damage to my son from the accident would kept him in pain for years. It turns out he hit his head on the roof/windshield which in reality killed him instantly. We donated organs to 53 people to help improve the quality of other lives. I have heard of cases where keeping a brain dead individual alive for long periods stresses the body and when they turn it off you can visibly see the body relax and finally go in peace. I know that you will never forget a child, my son has been gone 8 years now and this brings tears to my eyes writing it. Accept that god has a reason for taking your child early, and know that there are times as a parent you cannot protect your child.

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3 replies
anthonykl January 01 2014 at 9:37 AM

The uncle said that they wont say the hospital in NY that will accept her as to media attention well, how much more attention do they they need??? This has gone way to far and how many people have had the same sad situation and have been declared and buried in the past weeks???

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ambs.b January 01 2014 at 10:43 AM

Who is paying for this? Does Obamacare cover this forever?

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beamer1comm January 01 2014 at 10:51 AM

Will it inprove her quality of life ?

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1 reply
mgh406 beamer1comm January 01 2014 at 11:00 AM

It will only preserve the corpus.

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francescop January 02 2014 at 6:50 PM

I live near Oakland and have followed this story daily in the San Francisco Chronicle. My understanding is that three doctors from Children's and two from Stanford have declared her brain dead. This situation is very similar to the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died in 2005 after almost 15 years in a vegetative state. Her parents appealed every negative court ruling for that period. After the feeding tubes were finally removed, an autopsy showed that her brain had shrunk to half its normal size. I remember her mother stating that she could feel her daughter respond to her care despite the condition of her brain that the autopsy showed. My understanding of medical science is that brain dead is dead. This is a good time for everyone, who wants to relieve their loved ones from having to make these kinds of decisions, to execute a Living Will that will instruct your family about what to do in this kind of event. My father had one and it was a giant relief to be able to follow his instructions at the end of his fight with cancer. And he was able to die at home with his family nearby and not in a hospital. A pro forma Living Will can be found online and easily adapted to your specific needs. The hard part is facing, not your own death which is inevitable, but merely the prospect of our inevitable fate. Do it now!

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paulthebruce January 01 2014 at 9:20 AM

It is easy to understand how the grief of a parent and family can deny a child's death
It is also easy to understand how the family can blame the medical provider. But a Hospital
can not be a cemetery for those dead, if all those who have died were kept breathing by
ventilators, the cost would become unfathomable.

This conflict is why we need and have courts

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Eileen January 01 2014 at 10:36 AM

I have lost a child. Had she lived, I would not have allowed her to be kept alive on a ventilator, after being declared brain dead. A feeding tube and ventilator to keep her alive is torture. Would you want to be kept like that after your brain is gone?

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maryw135 January 01 2014 at 9:18 AM

This is truly tragic! I, as a mother can sympathize with the situation. It's heartfelt denial on the part of the childs mother & I understand this with all my heart & soul from a religious aspect. If God wants this precious child to continue to exist on this earth, taking her off life support now would be the ultimate show of faith for her mother. This would allow God to work his miraculous love of mankind, be it to bring her back to our world or take her Home to be with our Allmighty Father. I hope Mom can rise above this difficult situation & make a merciful decision & truly put her precious child in God's hands.

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