By Dave Andrusko
The increasingly bitter battle between the parents of a teenager declared brain dead and the hospital where her routine tonsillectomy went terribly awry December 9 continued yesterday when the family members said they wanted to transfer Jahi McMath to a nursing home they say is willing to continue her care.
The family’s announcement at a press conference Thursday followed the Tuesday decision of Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo. Based on the independent evaluation of Dr. Paul Fischer that Jahi met the criteria for brain death, Grillo ruled that the 13-year-old could be taken off life support.
On Thursday, Jahi’s uncle, Omari Sealey, told reporters, “Yesterday we spent Christmas together as a family — doing a lot of prayers and trying to have some fun, hoping for a miracle, and looks like we may have gotten our miracle. We found out that someone is willing to take Jahi away from Children’s Hospital to a facility nearby here in the Bay Area to treat her,” Thursday.”
He added, “So right now, we’re asking Children’s Hospital to work with us to make that possible,” he said, referring to Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland.
The family did not name the other facility.
Christopher Dolan, the family’s attorney, said that Jahi would need to have breathing and feeding tubes inserted before she could be moved.
“The most logical people are the ones in the hospital where she’s sitting who have the ability to do that,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “If they refuse to do that, and insist upon moving towards this deadline of pulling the plug, then we’ll just continue to do what we’ve been doing.”
Children’s Hospital Oakland said it would not go along with the family’s request. Chief of Pediatrics David Durand said in a statement
“Judge Grillo was very clear on Tuesday December 24. He ruled Jahi McMath to be deceased and instructed the hospital to maintain the status quo. Judge Grillo did not authorize or order any surgical procedures or transfer to another facility. Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice. Children’s Hospital Oakland continues to extend its wishes for peace and closure to Jahi McMath’s family.”
In a prior ruling Judge Grillo said that the hospital must hold off on any decisions until December 30. If the family decides to pursue its case to keep Jahi on the ventilator, the decision will be up to the California Court of Appeal.
Dolan told reporters Thursday “that if the family was unable to immediately move Jahi they would appeal the ruling,” according to the Times’ Matt Stevens. “He said the family’s private health insurance would cover the cost of her long-term care.”
“They told us there is a bed; they care for children like her all the time,” Dolan said. “They believe they can provide her with care and support and treat her as if she’s a living person.”
Jahi underwent the tonsillectomy to address sleep apnea and other concerns. The operation, at least initially, appeared to have gone well. But soon afterwards Jahi began bleeding profusely and suffered cardiac arrest which cut off the flow of oxygen to her brain.