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Life Support Extended For Girl Declared Brain Dead

By: Associated Press News Email
By: Associated Press News Email

Updated: December 30, 2013, 8:30pm

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A California judge has ordered a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead to be kept on life support until Jan. 7.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo on Monday ordered Children's Hospital Oakland to maintain Jahi McMath on a ventilator past a 5 p.m. time set in a previous ruling.

The family wants to continue life support, saying there is hope for recovery.

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

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy at the hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea and other issues. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily and went into cardiac arrest.

She was declared brain dead three days later.


News Release: Associated Press News

Updated: December 26, 2013, 9:15pm

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The family of a girl who was declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy wants to transfer her to a nursing home that is willing to keep caring for her even though doctors have said she is beyond recovery, a lawyer said Thursday.

Before the nursing home can accept the 13-year-old as a patient, however, doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland need to surgically insert breathing and feeding tubes into Jahi McMath that would allow the new facility to keep her body functioning, the lawyer, Christopher Dolan, said.

Dolan declined to identify the facility but said it is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is not equipped to perform surgeries.

"Our position is, `You don't want her, that's clear.' ... We are trying to find somebody who will see her other than a dead piece of meat and will treat her, help us get her out of there and into the arms of someone who will care for her rather than putting her in a body bag," said Dolan, who is representing Jahi's mother.

Children's Hospital has moved to take Jahi off life support, an action her family went to court to stop. A doctor at Children's Hospital and a court-appointed outside expert both concluded that she cannot recover because her brain is not functioning. A judge this week gave the hospital permission to remove the girl's ventilator after 5 p.m. Monday so the mother has time to appeal.

Dolan said he has asked the hospital for cooperation in preparing Jahi to be moved but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon.

Children's Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa said the hospital was preparing a statement.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery at Children's Hospital this month to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest.


News Release: Associated Press News
Updated December 24, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The uncle of a 13-year-old Northern California girl declared brain dead by a judge today says he's hoping for a Christmas Eve miracle.

Jahi McMath's family says she bled profusely and went into cardiac arrest following a tonsillectomy. They've been fighting to prevent Children's Hospital in Oakland from taking her off life support.

The judge sided with the hospital today after hearing from two doctors, but has given the teen's family until 5 p.m. Dec. 30 to file an appeal. She will stay on life support until then.

The doctors testified today that the teen couldn't breathe on her own when the ventilator was briefly removed during tests. Judge Evelio Grillo expressed his sympathy but said that he was powerless to order the hospital to keep Jahi on life support.

The girl's uncle says he and the family would discuss and decide whether to appeal or to allow the hospital to remove the Jahi from the ventilator.


News Release: Associated Press News
Updated December 23, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- With a family fighting a hospital to keep their daughter who has been declared brain dead on life support, a California judge on Monday ordered the hospital to keep treating 13-year-old Jahi McMath for another week as a second medical evaluation is conducted.

Jahi experienced complications following a tonsillectomy at Children's Hospital in Oakland.

As her family sat stone-faced in the front row of the courtroom, an Alameda County judge called for Jahi to be independently examined by Paul Graham Fisher, the chief of child neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The judge also ordered the hospital to keep Jahi on a ventilator until Dec. 30, or until further order from the court.

The examination was expected to occur later on Monday, and early Tuesday.

Hospital staff and Fisher will conduct an electroencephalogram, or EEG, and tests to see if blood is still flowing to Jahi's brain.

Doctors at Children's Hospital concluded the girl was brain dead on Dec. 12 and wanted to remove her from life support.

Jahi's family wants to keep her hooked up to a respirator and eventually have her moved to another facility.

The family said they believe she is still alive and that the hospital should not remove her from the ventilator without their permission.

"It's wrong for someone who made mistakes on your child to just call the coroner ... and not respect the family's feeling or rights," Sandra Chatman, Jahi's grandmother who is a registered nurse, said in the hallway outside the courtroom.

"I know Jahi suffered, and it tears me up."

The family's attorney also asked Judge Evelio Grillo to allow a third evaluation by Paul Byrne, a pediatric professor at the University of Toledo. The hospital's attorney objected to Byrne, saying he is not a pediatric neurologist.

Byrne is the co-editor of the 2001 book "Beyond Brain Death," which presents a variety of arguments against using brain-based criteria for declaring a person dead.

The judge is expected to take up the request to use Byrne, and another hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning, Christmas Eve.

Jahi's family says the girl bled profusely after a tonsillectomy and then went into cardiac arrest before being declared brain dead.

Outside the courtroom, Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics at Children's, said that staff have the "deepest sympathy" for the family, but that Jahi is brain dead.

"The ventilator cannot reverse the brain death that has occurred and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life," he said.

Durand said Jahi's surgery was "very complex," not simply a tonsillectomy.

"It was much more complicated than a tonsillectomy," Durand said. He refused to elaborate, citing health care privacy laws.

Arthur L. Caplan, who leads the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center and is not involved in Jahi's case, told The Associated Press that once brain death has been declared, a hospital is under no obligation to keep a patient on a ventilator.

"Brain death is death," he said, adding, "They don't need permission from the family to take her off, but because the little girl died unexpectedly and so tragically, they're trying to soften the blow and let the family adjust to the reality."

Often families confuse brain death with a coma or a permanent vegetative state, Caplan said, offering an analogy.

"A coma is like a television that has a picture with a lot of interference," he said. "There's brain activity, but something's not right. A permanent vegetative state is when the screen is all snow. Brain death is when the set is unplugged. There is nothing on the screen."

Keeping Jahi on a ventilator is also likely to cost thousands of dollars a day, he continued, and because she has been declared brain dead, is unlikely to be covered by health insurance.

Even if the court decides to remove Jahi from life support

Earlier Monday, Christopher Dolan, the family's attorney, vowed to keep Jahi hooked to the ventilator through Christmas. He said he would file an appeal if the judge orders her removed from the machine on Tuesday.

"I am confident she'll live through Christmas," a visibly weary Dolan said after the hearing. Dolan said he is working the case for free after the family reached out for help a week earlier.

Given the very public battle over Jahi's treatment, the judge pleaded with attorneys on both sides to continue speaking with each other and the family to help prepare for his eventual final order.

"This is a very, very charged case. The stakes are very high because there's a young girl involved," Grillo said.


News Release: Associated Press News

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A judge has ordered a California hospital to keep a girl declared brain dead on life support following what was supposed to be a routine tonsillectomy.

At a hearing Friday, both sides in the case agreed to get together and chose a neurologist to further examine 13-year-old Jahi McMath and determine her condition. Another hearing was set for Monday.

The family sought the court order to keep Jahi on a ventilator while a second opinion is sought.

The family says doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland wanted to disconnect life support after Jahi was declared brain dead on Dec. 12.

In a statement, the hospital said it could not comment on the case because it had not been granted permission to do so by the family.

The family says the girl kept bleeding profusely after the surgery then went into cardiac arrest before her death.


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