A California lawyer said Friday that he is prepared to go to federal court to force a hospital to insert breathing and feeding tubes into a girl who was declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy.
Christopher Dolan told The Associated Press that he is drafting a civil rights lawsuit alleging that Children’s Hospital Oakland’s refusal to perform the procedures that would allow 13-year-old Jahi McMath to be transferred to a long-term care facility violates her family’s religious, due process rights and privacy rights.
“The hospital seems to feel that only it can make decisions and in that sense, you have, I have and everyone has the right to privacy over our health care,” Dolan said. “It touches on some very significant issues, namely, who controls the decisions when you are dead or alive.”
The legal maneuver would need to be taken quickly. A state court judge this week gave Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, until 5 p.m. Monday to appeal his decision to allow the hospital to take her daughter off life support.
A possible compromise surfaced Thursday when Dolan and the girl’s relatives said they had found a nursing home that was willing to keep caring for Jahi even though two doctors have described her condition as irreversible. To be eligible for admission to the facility, however, the girl needs to have feeding and breathing tubes surgically implanted, they said.
David Durand, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics, said in a statement issued Thursday night that Children’s Hospital doctors would not cooperate. The judge did not authorize or order any transfer or surgery, and the hospital “does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” Durand said.
If Winkfield decides to take the case to federal court, Dolan said he would also seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the hospital from disconnecting the girl from the ventilator that is keeping her body functioning.
Jahi underwent tonsil surgery at Children’s Hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest.