Judge Allows Hospital to Take Jahi McMath Off Life Support, Family Considers Appeal

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 26, 2013   |   11:05AM   |   Oakland, CA

A judge has ruled that a hospital in Oakland, California can remove life support from Jahi McMath, 13, who has been declared brain-dead days after undergoing surgery to have her tonsils removed. Her family is already devastated enough but has had to fight the hospital, which wanted to take her off life support against their wishes.

Jahi’s family has huddled by her side at Children’s Hospital Oakland these last couple of weeks calling on the community for prayers and searching for answers on what went wrong during what was supposed to be a one-night stay for the family favorite. Jahi arrived at the hospital on a Monday and was supposed to be released Tuesday, the family said.

A member of Jahi’s family , a veteran nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, noticed her granddaughter was bleeding from her mouth and nose. She later went into cardiac arrest. Jahi spent Tuesday on a ventilator. By 2 a.m. Wednesday, doctors said she had swelling in her brain, and Thursday, she was declared legally brain-dead, family members said.

Judge Evelio Grillo ruled that Jahi must be kept on the breathing machine until at least 5 p.m. December 30. The verdict came after hearing testimony from two doctors, one an independent expert appointed by the judge on Monday and the other a 30-year veteran of the hospital. Both testified that the teen is brain-dead and that her body is alive only because of a ventilator hooked up to her since December 12.

The family has appealed the decision but pro-life attorney Wesley Smith says it is unlikely they will prevail.

“The judge gave the family, still fighting the determination, until Monday to appeal or adjust to the tragic reality,” he said. “I hope the family spends the remaining time loving Jahi and making preparations, as there is zero chance in my view that the court’s ruling will be overturned on appeal. If a miracle is to happen, it will have to be when the breathing assistance is removed. People who are brain dead have no ability to breathe on their own.”

“It’s also a shame the hospital has handled the tragedy so maladroitly. I was speaking about this to a former pediatric nurse who used to work in Children’s Hospital Oakland’s ICU. She said the facility has a real calling to serving the African-American community, and this has hurt trust. That’s why I was upset to hear a hospital spokesman say he was “gratified” that the court validated the hospital’s diagnosis,” Smith continued. “No, the proper and decent thing would have been to say that they were sorry the original diagnosis was affirmed. Good grief.”



The family’s attorney says the family is considering trying to get Jahi moved to another medical facility and they tried to have some semblance of a normal Christmas.

“We’re trying to make it as normal as possible,” he said.

Christopher Dolan, the family’s attorney visited Wednesday, saying the family played the game Taboo and sang Christmas carols to Jahi.

“It really was quite touching. They really are a lovely family,” he said.

The family has received offers for assistance from around the country, including as far as New York, to move Jahi out of Children’s Hospital and assist with her care, Dolan said.

However, the family would have to weigh how much it cost to travel with her and if the support will materialize, he said.

“A lot of them are regular folks with jobs that they have already taken close to a month off,” Dolan said. “There’s a lot for them to figure out.”