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Godspeed, Jahi McMath

Posted on: January 10th, 2014 by kresta in the afternoon No Comments
Finally on the evening of January 9, after 28 days without treatment following a diagnosis of “brain death” in an Oakland, CA hospital, thirteen-year-old Jani McMath is showing signs of improvement. 

The teen suffered cardiac arrest and other complications December 9, after what was expected to be a routine surgery to treat sleep apnea.  Medical staff at Oakland Children’s Hospital and an independent pediatric neurologist from Stanford University said that she lacked brain activity, and she was declared legally dead.  Although Jahi was still on a ventilator, the hospital refused to provide nutritional support since she was, in their estimation, a “dead body.”  Douglas Straus, the lawyer representing the hospital, wrote in a letter to the girl’s family, “Performing medical procedures on the body of a deceased human being is simply not something Children’s Hospital can do or ask its staff to assist in doing.

The weeks since Jahi’s surgery have brought confusion and legal wrangling:

  • Christopher Dolan, the lawyer for Jahi’s mother Nailah Winkfield, tried to negotiate a transfer to a long-term care facility; but Children’s Hospital refused to permit a visiting doctor to insert the tracheal tube and feeding tube which would assist her during the difficult transfer. 
  • The First District Court of Appeals refused to order the hospital to insert the tubes, ruling that the issue should first go to the lower court judge who had ordered the hospital to keep the girl on a ventilator until January 7, pending the family’s appeal.  
  • Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schindler Schiavo, whose life was ended in 2005 when her husband had her feeding tube removed after years in what was called a persistent vegetative state, offered to help in locating a suitable facility for Jahi’s long-term care.

Finally on January 8, the family was able to arrange a transfer.  Children’s Hospital Oakland released Jahi to the coroner, who in turn released her to another unnamed center.

Now at the new location, reported to be a Catholic care facility, Jahi seems to be improving.  She has had the two surgeries she needed, to insert a feeding tube and a tracheal tube to replace the ventilator.

According to a report in LifeSiteNews, Dr. Paul Byrne, who examined Jahi while she was still a patient at Children’s Hospital, said at the time that she was alive—despite the hospital’s insistence that Jahi was “brain dead.”  In the state of California, loss of brain activity is equated with legal death; but Dr. Byrne reported that her heart was beating on its own, her organs were functioning and she was responding to family members with purposeful movements.  He was certain that she was healing from her tonsillectomy—and healing, Dr. Byrne noted, happens only in a living person.

Although the family prefers to keep the name of the new facility confidential, Jahi’s uncle Omari Sealy told CBS News that since Jahi’s transfer, the Catholic care facility has “been very welcoming with open arms.  They have beliefs just like ours.”

Christopher Dolan, the family’s attorney, offers a stark warning, however.  Despite apparent improvements since her transfer, Dolan worries that Jahi’s body may be beyond the point of saving, after the long lack of treatment in Oakland. 

Please keep Jahi McMath and her family in your prayers. 

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