The family of the teenage girl in California who is the subject of a national debate over whether a hospital has the right to yank life support has found a new care facility that will continue her medical care and treatment. But the hospital she is at now won’t cooperate to move her.
A judge had 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.
Now, the lawyer for the family says there is another facility willing to keep the girl on life support. Thursday he asked Children’s Hospital of Oakland to cooperate by performing a few procedures needed to move Jahi McMath.
Before the nursing home can accept the 13-year-old as a patient, however, doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland need to surgically insert breathing and feeding tubes into Jahi McMath that would allow the new facility to keep her body functioning, the lawyer, Christopher Dolan, told The Associated Press.
David Durand, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics, said the hospital would not cooperate with Jahi’s transfer to another facility. The judge did not authorize or order any transfer or surgery, Durand said in a statement released Thursday evening.
“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” he said.
Dolan declined to identify the facility where the family would like Jahi to go, but he said it is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is not equipped to perform surgeries. Dolan said he was put in touch with the facility by a group of Catholic doctors.
“Our position is, ‘You don’t want her, that’s clear.’ … We are trying to find somebody who will see her other than a dead piece of meat and will treat her, help us get her out of there and into the arms of someone who will care for her rather than putting her in a body bag,” said Dolan, who is representing Jahi’s mother.
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 said it is unlikely they will prevail.
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“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.”