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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.

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Welcome Don January 01 2014 at 12:47 PM

Pathetic, wait until the parents file a law suit !

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lts749 January 01 2014 at 3:41 PM

I believe that the family believes she is alive. The body moves involuntary during the time the body goes through major stresses. Right now, the facilities in NY or AZ are not stepping up to do anything. There is no doctor that will do this because it is not ethical. If she was in a coma that would be different. She is brain dead and that is so very sad. They need to make the hard decision very soon.

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Katie January 01 2014 at 3:42 PM

My heart aches for this family and I don't think anyone can know how they would react unless it's happened to them. Who am I to judge their decision(s)? My opinion is that they should let her go, it is highly unlikely that she will recover and what she will have is no quality of life. I can't even begin to imagine how painful this is, but what's best for the child is to allow her to rest.

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Ojitos January 02 2014 at 12:23 AM

My heart goes out to this family, honestly. Although this is a tragedy and the whole situation is ugly, I believe the reality is that the girl is brain dead and her organs should be quickly donated to those who would benefit and survive their own illnesses from said donations. Say good-bye, family, and save some lives while the organs are still good. Know that, through those organ donations, that others will live because of them. Big hugs to all of you..... Time to let go....

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1 reply
sweet cherri Ojitos January 02 2014 at 1:13 AM



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3 replies
Jeff D January 01 2014 at 4:00 PM

I can understand the families grief, but without the ventilator her heart would stop. Praying for God to keep her alive is redundant because he has already taken her. Pray for the family to accept what has happened, and for them to have strength to cope with it and at some point, be able to move on. I'm not trying to sound heartless or cruel but this child has passed away and is not coming back.

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Jen January 01 2014 at 4:06 PM

Since it seems that no facility has come forward and confirmed that they will take her then the family should consider another option. Take the child home. If they can find a physician who is willing to do these two procedures on a deceased person, then have Jahi transferred to her own home. Let the family take care of her. Even if they have to hire trained help (RNs, respiratory techs, etc) it will be less expensive than having her in a facility. Are these people independently wealthy? Having worked in the medical insurance business for over 25 years, I am pretty sure that any insurance company will not provide benefits if someone has been legally declared deceased. This child has not suffered a brain injury. Her brain had died. Is she suffering? No one knows. I cannot say how I would react if it were one of my kids. I do know that it is time to let go. As heartbreaking as this situation is, the family needs to dig deep in their faith and move forward. Her spirit and soul are gone and it is now time to celebrate her life. I pray that they can find the strength to do this.

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1 reply
Debi Jen January 01 2014 at 4:23 PM

Exactly! That poor, broken body is no longer Jahi McMath. She is gone. Her soul has already left and is with her Creator.

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moorevalmoore January 01 2014 at 4:11 PM

This poor child is brain dead. The mother's denial is understandable. So sad.

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1 reply
snsunandfun moorevalmoore January 01 2014 at 4:33 PM

The question is, ask the mother if she was brain dead, would she want to live on machine the rest of her life. Its a very sad story However the facts are what is the right thing to do. Unfornuatly the right thing is not the easy thing to do.,One can not be selfish in making this decision.

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violatskr7 January 01 2014 at 4:11 PM

Have this family read Matthew 19:14 and let her go.

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dmakarevitz January 01 2014 at 4:12 PM

I am an RN and have dealt with these tragedies for over thirty years. My heart and prayers go to the family and the little girl. As a mother, I love my children enough to know we are mortal and dead is dead. The little girl will NEVER have any quality of life. It is highly unethical to put a tracheostomy and PEG tube in her now. As a Christian, I would ask the family that of they have faith of any kind, why is it not strong enough to let this little angel go home to God?

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1 reply
GRANCON2 dmakarevitz January 01 2014 at 4:39 PM

i'm an oncology rn 26 years it doesnt have anything to do with faith i took care of an 80 yr old priest who didnt want to die and wanted to continue treatment though he was on his death bed so if a priest cant accept death how can you expect the family of a child who was healthy when she went into the hospital to accept she is dead the tests for brain death varies at institutions it used to be 3 flat line eeg's the brain death test they used on my son was taking him off the vent to see if he would breathe on his own i watched the tele monitor go from sinus to vfib they wanted to put him back on the vent and i said no did they seriously think i wanted to have to go through this again and watch him die again doctors are cold people ive met only a handful in 26 yrs who are truthful to their patients and i work at a very large teaching hospital ive seen so many uncalled for surgeries etc in 26 yrs im so ready to retire and though you claim to know dead is dead when your child dies your world is forever changed it is nothing like your parents a sibling your spouse dying unless you have lost a child you will never know the shoes we walk in 29 months for me since my baby boy who was 28 left me you cant imagine the pain as i never imagined it and since i work oncology dying is my business but i never imagined the pain of a parent who has lost their child

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Arnita January 01 2014 at 12:35 PM

To the mother Jahi : I am sorry to hear about your daughter but it is time for you to release your daughter body, her soul is gone she is with God now. Her brain is dead there are no brain waves a machine is breathing for her body not her soul. I don't know who is giving you information that your daughter is still alive, if she is still alive then take her off the machine and see if she will breath on her own. Do the right thing and let her go. God Bless you and your family.

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