Without another court order, a California hospital could unhook a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead from a breathing machine.
Jahi McMath underwent a tonsillectomy at the hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea and other issues. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily and went into cardiac arrest. She was declared brain dead three days later.
Jahi could be removed from a ventilator at Children’s Hospital of Oakland at 5 p.m. Monday under Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo’s current order. The girl’s family was pinning its hopes on a New York facility to care for the child after two California care homes withdrew offers to accept her.
“I just found out that the facility my daughter was supposed to be going to has backed out,” Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, wrote on the family’s fundraising website early Sunday. “My family and I are still striving to find a location that will accept her in her current condition.”
With the clock ticking, the family has raised more than $22,000 through the fundraising website in the chance of a possible transfer.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital and an independent pediatric neurologist from Stanford University have further concluded the girl is brain dead. The hospital wants to remove her from life support, but the family said they believe she is still alive.
Christopher Dolan, the family’s attorney, said he was waiting to hear from the New York hospital after its facility director and medical director speak.
“The family is together, and today everybody is praying and being together,” Dolan told the Associated Press Sunday. He said no decisions had been made about legal options for Monday, and would not comment on progress with the New York facility.
On Sunday, the hospital said it had not heard from the New York facility, or any other, about a transfer.
“We need to be able to talk to the other facility to understand what it is they are capable of doing,” Cynthia Chiarappa, a hospital spokeswoman, said. “This is not transferring an individual in a vegetative state, but a dead body.”
The hospital also said it would need to confirm there is “lawful transportation” included in any plan to transfer Jahi, and written permission from the coroner.
Dolan said previously that the family views the New York site as it’s “last, last hope.” He has also has said it was possible the family could ask Grillo for more time, or file a federal appeal.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital have refused to perform a tracheotomy for breathing and insert a feeding tube, necessary procedures in order to transfer Jahi. The hospital has cited it is unethical to perform surgery on a person legally declared dead.
The hospital’s lawyer, Douglas Straus, said in a letter to Dolan on Sunday that the hospital has required three conditions to transfer Jahi, including assurance from the new facility.
“Discussion about performing medical procedures upon a dead body presents unusual and complicated questions. Until there is a definite commitment by a facility to accept Jahi’s body upon specified terms, I don’t think I can tackle those issues,” the hospital’s lawyer, Straus wrote.
Straus also wrote that the hospital needs to be presented with a “lawful transportation plan” and written approval from the Alameda County coroner to send the teen’s body out of state.