After the horrifying surgical procedure that left her brain dead and an escalating legal battle to keep her alive, Jahi McMath’s family has announced that they have taken the girl out of the hospital that pronounced her dead, to a place where “they’re going to call her Jahi, not `the body.'”
“Everybody played by the rules,” family attorney Christopher Dolan said of the situation shortly after McMath, a California teen placed on life support after a botched surgery, left the Children’s Hospital of Oakland, which had declared her dead. McMath’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, received the girl after the hospital had given her body as dead to the coroner, which returned the body to the family as if she were dead. From there, the girl left the hospital for an undisclosed location where the family says she will receive lifetime care. McMath has been living on life support for three and a half weeks.
McMath was the victim of a severely flawed tonsillectomy that left the 13-year-old bleeding profusely before her brain ceased to function entirely. While her family wished to have her placed on life support and moved to a permanent care facility, doctors at the hospital insisted that she was dead, and refused to let her leave the hospital. One hospital spokeswoman described the option of transferring McMath to a care facility as “not transferring an individual in a vegetative state, but a dead body.” A state court order initially would have allowed the hospital to take the girl off of life support against her family’s wishes, which triggered an extended legal battle between the hospital and the family.
The family won the appeal, resulting in the hospital being unable to remove McMath from life support without the family’s consent, but they refused to allow her to leave, either. Having handed McMath to the coroner, the coroner’s office created a death certificate for the girl, which the family’s lawyer says is invalid because “we don’t think she’s dead.” Given that the coroner could not perform an autopsy on her while on life support, the death certificate has no cause of death and is thus likely legally invalid. Dolan did not elaborate much on the legality of that certificate as he had not seen it.
It is unclear where the California teen has been taken; attorney Dolan said only that it was a safe and competent place in the care of such individuals and refused to disclose for security reasons the location. Several facilities in California had initially welcomed McMath before rescinding their offers to care for her, fearing media retribution and unduly publicity. With the closer options to the family receding, a New York facility extended to the family an offer to give McMath a home. Neither the family nor their attorney disclosed the name of that facility for fear of media scrutiny hurting the prospect of receiving help again. Thanks to supporters across the country and pro-life groups, Winkfield has raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for her child’s lifetime medical care.