Hospital Reaches Deal on Brain-Dead Teen's Fate
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A mother fighting to continue life support for the daughter declared brain dead after a "routine tonsillectomy" has reached a settlement with the hospital, a judge reportedly revealed Friday.
Jahi McMath, 13, had undergone the surgery at Children's Hospital Oakland on Dec. 9, but lost a large amount of blood and suffered a heart attack and loss of oxygen to her brain.
The girl's mother, Latasha Winkfield, disputes the prognosis of Dr. David Durand, the hospital's chief of pediatrics, who has allegedly said "that Jahi is 'dead, dead, dead, dead,' utilizing the definition of 'brain death' derived from Cal. Health & Safety Code § 7180."
Winkfield says she is a Christian, "with firm religious beliefs that as long as the heart is beating, Jahi is alive."
McMath has been on a respirator since her surgery. "She is totally disabled at this time and is severely limited in all major life activities, being unable to do anything of her own volition," her mother said in a federal complaint last week.
Winkfield had filed the suit on Dec. 30, the reported deadline given by a judge on Christmas Eve for the family to appeal or make other arrangements before the hospital had to pull the plug on McMath.
That same day, the hospital told McMath's family that they could arrange to have McMath transferred.
Winkfield purports to have "personal knowledge" of people who were declared brain dead but "emerged from legal brain death to where they had cognitive ability and some even fully recovering."
The mother also says her religious beliefs require that her daughter be provided "all treatment, care and nutrition."
A judge on Monday reportedly ordered the hospital to keep the girl on life support for another week while Winkfield tried to raise money for a transfer.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that the Alameda County coroner issued a death certificate stating that McMath died on Dec. 12.
Nevertheless, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo noted at a hearing the same day that the hospital had agreed to let a critical care team move McMath to an unspecified facility, according to SFGate.com.
The agreement makes Winkfield "wholly and exclusively responsible for Jahi McMath the moment custody is transferred in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit and acknowledge(s) that she understands that the transfer and subsequent transport could pact the condition of the body, including causing cardiac arrest," the article states.
Winkfield had reportedly wanted doctors from the hospital or an outside physician to outfit McMath with a feeding tube and a tracheostomy tube, but the judge refused.
The Chronicle quoted the hospital's attorney, Douglas Straus, as saying that it hospital would not allow any doctor to perform procedures on a dead person.
The family is represented by Christopher Dolan, of San Francisco.
He told the Chronicle that the hospital has simply allowed workers to enter and remove McMath, without a new facility in mind.
Dolan reportedly would not discuss details about where or when McMath will be moved.