Family has found facility to take Oakland girl on life support

The family wants to move Jahi McMath to a new facility, but it appears there are some lines Children's Hospital is not willing to cross.
December 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The family of a 13-year-old Oakland girl is making arrangements to move her out of Children's Hospital Oakland. Jahi suffered complications following a routine tonsillectomy two weeks ago that left her brain dead and on life support.

An undisclosed medical care facility is offering to take in 13-year-old Jahi McMath. It requires Jahi to have a surgically implanted feeding tube and a tracheotomy, but Children's Hospital Oakland is refusing to do it. So this case could wind up back in court again.

Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, said finding a new place to move her to keep her on life support is a miracle. He also said Jahi has shown signs of improvement including shoulder movement and normal blood pressure.

"OK, you don't want her, that's fine. We have a place that does want her that wants to keep her alive so help us get her out of your hospital so we can take her somewhere else where someone wants to help us keep her alive," said Sealey.

And the family says its insurance company is willing to pay for it.

"The judge in this case was very clear," said Sam Singer, the Children's Hospital spokesperson. He said the court ruling that decided Jahi is legally brain dead prevents them from performing the surgery. "The judge did not authorize or order any surgical procedures for transfer to another facility. Children's Hospital does not believe performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice."

Thursday night, Children's Hospital Oakland issued a written statement saying, "Children's Hospital Oakland continues to offer its sympathy and support to the family over the recent death of Jahi McMath. We are aware that the family's attorney has stated the family hopes to transfer Jahi's body to another facility. However, he has refused to identify the facility to which they hope to transfer Jahi's body. The family's attorney has stated that multiple surgical procedures need to be performed on Jahi's body before this possible transfer can be completed. Judge Grillo was very clear on Tuesday December 24. He ruled Jahi McMath to be deceased and instructed the hospital to maintain the status quo. Judge Grillo did not authorize or order any surgical procedures or transfer to another facility. Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice. Children's Hospital Oakland continues to extend its wishes for peace and closure to Jahi McMath's family."

But the attorney for Jahi's family argues that Jahi is not dead.

"Whose definition of death are we taking? The court made a determination about a technical definition of brain death. I have spent time with Jahi. She is breathing with the assistance of this tube," said Chris Dolan, the family's attorney. He says they'll go back to court to get the procedure done.

However, they'll have to act fast because the judge decided the hospital only has to keep Jahi on life support until Monday at 5 p.m.

The judge's decision essentially came down to the opinion of an independent neurologist who supported what doctors have been telling the family all along -- that Jahi is brain dead. Chief of child neurology and director of the Center for Brain and Behavior at Stanford, Dr. Paul Graham Fisher, was appointed to examine the extent of Jahi's brain damage. In his test results taken Monday night, he said Jahi had no response to facial pain, no gag reflexes, no reflexes in her arms or legs, and a complete absence of brain stem and cerebral function.

Despite the judge's ruling, the family says it forced the hospital to provide all of Jahi's medical records and it raised the issue of patient and family rights.

This isn't the first time Children's Hospital Oakland has been embroiled in this type of controversy.

An investigative report by our media partner, the Bay Area News Group, found an incident two years ago when another young girl went in for a tonsillectomy and left with brain damage. Rebecca Jimenez, 11, of Rodeo can no longer walk or talk after undergoing surgery at Children's Hospital. Her parents sued and settled for more than $4.4 million. You can read on that story here.


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