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U.S. Magistrate to hold mediation hearing today, bringing together family of Jahi McMath and Children’s Hospital Oakland

by | Jan 3, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath

Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath

Today U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu will hear both sides—the family of Jahi McMath and the hospital where she is a patient—in an attempt to work out a settlement in the increasingly contentious battle over the fate of a teenager who has been declared brain dead.

The fate of the 13-year-old Oakland, California, girl will be disputed in two other courtrooms as well. Judge Evelio Grillo of Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland is scheduled to hold a separate hearing today. Last week Judge Grillo concurred with the diagnosis that Jahi is legally dead but issued an order keeping Jahi on a ventilator until 5 p.m. January 7.

Next Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong in Oakland “is expected to hear arguments about possible violations of Jahi’s civil rights, and the rights of families – not doctors, lawyers or politicians – to determine a loved one’s death, based on their religious or personal beliefs,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Sam Singer, a public relations consultant retained by Children’s Hospital Oakland, has told reporters that the family must find a way to transport Jahi, a nursing care facility that is willing to accept what they describe as “a deceased body,” and (apparently most difficult) an outside physician willing to insert breathing and feeding tubes. (The hospital has flatly refused to insert the tubes or allow an outsider to do so in its facility.)

The family’s attorney, Chris Dolan, says the family has found a way of transporting the teenager and that New Beginnings Center in Medford, N.Y., had agreed to take Jahi in and that she “would be cared for around the clock by licensed nursing staff and licensed respiratory therapists,” according to Katie Nelson of the Oakland Tribune. “The facility would also hire a pediatrician who would accept Jahi as his patient.”

Although it is not entirely clear, it appears the family may be having difficulty finding a physician willing to surgically insert the tubes.

Dolan again asked for an order for the tubes to be inserted, in papers filed in federal court Thursday. “At this point, Jahi has not had nutrition for nearly three weeks,” he wrote. “She is in desperate need of a tracheostomy tube and a gastric tube. This court should grant plaintiff the relief to allow for Jahi’s transport.”

Jahi underwent surgery at Children’s Hospital Oakland December 9 to remove her tonsils, adenoids, and extra sinus tissue to treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

After initially weathering the routine surgery well, Jahi began to bleed profusely and went into cardiac arrest. Three days later the hospital declared her to be brain-dead. That a diagnosis was confirmed by Dr. Paul Fisher, a court-appointed pediatric neurologist from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, vigorously disagrees.

“When I go in there and touch her, she moves her whole body, her legs, her shoulders,” she told reporters outside the hospital last week. “How can you possibly say my child is dead if she responds to my voice?”

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Categories: National News