What started as a typical tonsillectomy for thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath ended in a mother’s worst nightmare. Due to complications, McMath bled during the surgery and suffered cardiac arrest. On December 12, 2013, the teenager was declared brain-dead. Two physicians (a hospital staff neurologist and a family practitioner) have concluded that the complete mass of McMath’s brain (including the brain stem) no longer has the capacity to function.
The chief of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Oakland, Dr. David Durand, released the following statement regarding Jahi McMath’s condition. “When one’s brain ceases to function, it never restarts. We have the deepest sympathy for Jahi’s mother, but the only thing maintaining this child is a ventilator machine. It would be unfair to give false hope that Jahi will come back to life.”
The hospital where McMath was placed on a ventilator (Children’s Hospital Oakland) released a memo regarding whether life support should be maintained. “Ms. McMath is dead. Children’s is under no legal obligation to provide medical or other intervention for a deceased person.”
Nailah Winkfield, McMath’s mother, does not share the same opinion. “Despite what they say, she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch. Given time I know (God) will spark her brain awake.”
On Friday, Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled that McMath remain on life support while at Children’s Hospital Oakland. Grillo ordered the girl’s family to search for another neurologist to assess her condition. The ultimate decision to stay on life support will hinge on this evaluation. If McMath is found to be brain-dead, then the court cannot force the hospital to keep her on life support.
According to Christopher Dolan, who is the attorney for McMath’s family, there is an extra incentive to search for another physician to complete an evaluation. The family does not want to rely on the hospital’s physicians.
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