A judge issued a temporary restraining order today that prevents Children’s Hospital Oakland from removing a brain dead 13-year-old Oakland girl from life support at least until Monday.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ordered attorneys for the hospital and the family of Jahi McMath to agree over the weekend on an outside medical expert who will examine Jahi on Monday to provide an independent opinion on whether she is brain dead.
Jahi, an eighth-grade student at the E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts in Oakland, went to Children’s Hospital on Dec. 9 for what her family said was to be a simple procedure to have her tonsils removed to cure a sleep apnea problem that made it difficult for her to sleep.
However, the hospital’s lawyer, Douglas Strauss, said in court papers filed today that the surgery was “complicated” and included three different procedures.
Strauss said Jahi “suffered serious complications resulting in a tragic outcome,” which is that she was declared brain dead on Dec. 12.
Jahi has been on life support since then but Christopher Dolan, the lawyer for Jahi’s family, alleged at today’s hearing that the hospital is treating her “as if she already is dead” and wants to remove her from life support as soon as possible.
Strauss said Jahi “was declared brain dead as a result of an irreversible cessation of all functions of her entire brain, including her brain stem” and four doctors, including two who don’t work for Children’s, have determined that she’s brain dead.
He said, “There is not a scintilla of evidence suggesting that the diagnosis of death is a mistake or was not made in accord with accepted medical standards.”
However, Dolan said Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, said in a court declaration that Jahi “is warm and soft to the touch,” curls her feet in when they’re touched, lifts her arms and still produces secretions and urinates.
Grillo said that in the normal course of events an opinion by two outside doctors that a patient is brain dead would be sufficient and the patient could be removed from life support.
But he said, “This is not the normal course of events” and he believes it would be appropriate for another outside doctor to examine Jahi and provide another opinion as to whether she is brain dead.
Grillo said if the independent examination is done early next week, “at least the family will have a decision before Christmas and will have peace at knowing they did everything they could” to keep Jahi alive.
Dolan said Jahi’s family is grateful that an outside doctor will examine Jahi but warned that they might not necessarily accept the doctor’s opinion as final.
“They might not automatically want to pull the plug on her but instead might want to move her to another facility” where efforts to keep her alive would continue, Dolan said.
Jahi’s family members declined to speak to reporters at the end of the hearing today.
Grillo will have another hearing on Monday morning to find out if Jahi’s family and Children’s have agreed on a doctor who will examine Jahi as soon as possible.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News