Judge rules Jahi McMath's mother can remove her from hospital

Children's Hospital and Jahi McMath's family reached an agreement to let a team transfer Jahi to a ventilator so she could be moved.
January 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The family of Jahi McMath says a ruling by a judge Friday moves them one step closer to removing the 13-year-old from Children's Hospital Oakland, where she was declared brain-dead last month.

The same judge, however, did not change his 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for allowing the hospital the remove Jahi from a ventilator.

Friday night, the hospital and Jahi's family reached an agreement to let a critical care team transfer the 13-year-old to a ventilator provided by the family, so they can transport her to a facility they say is "interested in providing her with the care she needs."

"...Because it's for my daughter. And when you love your children the way I love mine, you go above and beyond," said Nailah Winkfield, Jahi's mother. "I'm just happy that I know now through the courts, and they're making it known, that the parents do have rights."

Friday, a seven-and-half-hour-long settlement conference before U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu laid out the steps necessary to move the 13-year-old.

"We will bring our own ventilator in, it will be a transfer to a ventilator and then Jahi will exit the facility," said Dolan.

Dolan said the two procedures needed for Jahi to be transferred -- a tracheotomy and a feeding tube insertion -- will not be done at Children's and he isn't saying when or where they're moving her, only that it would be as soon as possible.

Friday, Alameda County Superior Court Evelio Grillo approved something that Children's Hospital administrators have been saying they'd allow all along -- the removal of Jahi McMath from their facility without any additional surgical procedures.

Judge Grillo said Jahi could be transferred under a deal with Children's Hospital Oakland that will hold Winkfield accountable for developments that could include the 13-year-old going into cardiac arrest.

"Right now, arrangements are being made," said McMath family attorney Christopher Dolan said. "And what we needed to know is that when all the balls are in line, that we could move quickly."

With a Tuesday deadline looming to remove her from a ventilator, Jahi's family and their attorney have been scrambling to get her moved to a long-term care facility.

They wanted the hospital to insert a feeding tube and perform a tracheotomy on the brain-dead teen. But the judge refused to issue that order.

"What's equally important today is that it is our understanding that the coroner's office, the Alameda County coroner's office, has issued a death certificate," hospital spokesperson Sam Singer said.

The coroner says the death certificate, though issued, is incomplete because no cause of death has been determined pending an autopsy.

Outside court, hospital attorney Douglas Straus seemed somewhat overwhelmed by all that's lead to this point.

"Personally, it's horrible that this child has died. It's also horrible that it's so difficult for her family to accept that death," said Straus choking up. "And I wish and I constantly think that wouldn't it be great if they were able to come to terms with the terrible tragic event and that I didn't have to stand in front of you all time after time."

After the settlement conference Straus said, "By the terms of that stipulation, there is the possibility for Jahi McMath to leave the hospital and Children's is committed to that stipulation."

Jahi went into cardiac arrest while recovering from the Dec. 9 tonsil surgery. Three doctors have declared the girl brain dead based on exams and tests showing no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.

Multiple outside doctors and bioethicists observing the case have confirmed that a patient in that condition meets the legal criteria for death and has no chance of recovering.

Earlier on Friday the family had not yet found a doctor who was willing to insert the tubes, but relatives said they may have found a facility in New York that's willing to care for the girl.

"This has been the most fluid situation I've ever been involved in," said Dolan. "And I know that for people it raises a lot of issues. But this is a family, this is their daughter, this is their right. And other people are free to make other decisions. But we hope that they will respect this family's right to petition for their decision."

The clock is ticking. A federal hearing in the case is set for Tuesday at 1 p.m. where the attorney for the family may ask the judge for an extension if Jahi hasn't been moved.

(ABC7 News reporter Nick Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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