Hospital Won't Perform Surgery to Move Brain Dead Teen | NBC New York

Hospital Won't Perform Surgery to Move Brain Dead Teen



    (Published Friday, Dec. 27, 2013)

    Children's Hospital Oakland cast doubt Thursday evening whether a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead earlier this month could be transferred to another facility, despite the family announcing earlier that they had found another facility in the Bay Area willing to keep her on life support.

    Jahi McMath's uncle, Omari Sealey, said the family is "still hoping for a miracle" and "may have gotten one" by finding another facility to take Jahi and "give her another fighting chance to wake up."

    But Children's Hospital shot back a statement an hour later, saying that the family's attorney has said that multiple surgical procedures will be necessary to move Jahi and that he has not specified the facility they hope to transfer her to.

    "Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,"  said Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics.

    Doctors at Children's declared Jahi to be brain dead on Dec. 12, three days after she went to the hospital for what her family said was supposed to be a routine tonsillectomy to cure a sleep apnea problem that made it difficult for her to sleep.

    A judge earlier this week ruled Children's Hospital Oakland could remove McMath from the ventilator keeping her body functioning. The family has until 5 p.m. Monday to file an appeal.

    Chris Dolan, an attorney for Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, on Thursday said they were able to find another care facility willing to keep the girl on life support.

    "A Bay Area sub-acute care facility has indicated that they can accept Jahi and provide her with all the nutrition, ventilation support and other care that she needs to stabilize her and to assist her in reaching maximum medical improvement," Dolan said in a statement. "I have been in contact with the plan administrator for Jahi's insurance who indicated that it appears that this transfer could work."

    Dolan, however, added Jahi would need additional medical equipment and surgery before she would be accepted into the other facility. He reached out to Children's Hospital to help in the possible move.

    "I am hoping that they will cooperate," Dolan said. "It is clear that they want Jahi out of the hospital...the family agrees, they want her out of there too, but they would prefer that she leave while her heart is still beating and she has vent support."

    Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled just before Christmas Eve that the hospital could remove Jahi from the ventilator.

    Durand, the hospital's chief of pediatrics, on Thursday released the following statement in response to the family's request:

    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.

    MORE: Christmas at Children's Hospital for Jahi McMath

    Dolan said he plans to ask an outside doctor to perform the surgery.

    "If Children's tries to block that physician then we'll be back in court seeking a writ of mandate to make them do that," he said.

    Jahi's family, who are devout Christians, said they believe Jahi is still alive, because her heart is still beating. The teen suffered cardiac arrest after bleeding profusely following her Dec. 9 operation to fix her sleep apnea. She was declared brain dead for the first time on Dec. 12.

    Grillo based his decision on the conclusions of court-appointed Dr. Paul Fisher of Stanford University and the hospital's Dr. Robin Shanahan. A third doctor at Children's also made the same finding. All the EEGs performed showed there is no sign of brain activity.

    Grillo said he had no other choice but to allow the hospital to remove the ventilator.

    "I wish I could fix it, but I can't,'' he told the court last week.

    The hospital had argued that the teen had no chance of recovery since all brain function had ceased.

    "Our sincere hope is that the family finds peace and can come to grips with the judge's decision," hospital attorney Doug Strauss said outside court after Grillo's ruling.

    The case is now out of Grillo's court and the decision will be up to the California Court of Appeal if the family decides to pursue its legal case to keep Jahi on the ventilator.

    NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle and Bay City News contributed to this report.