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Family of Jahi McMath files medical malpractice suit against California hospital and surgeon

by | Mar 4, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Jahi McMath

Jahi McMath

OAKLAND — The family of Jahi McMath officially filed its lawsuit Tuesday and for the first time provided the family’s account of what allegedly happened after Jahi underwent an operation in 2013 to treat sleep apnea.

“The lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court lists Dr. Frederick Rosen, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, and [UCSF Benioff Children’s] hospital as defendants,” according to reporter David DeBolt. “The medical malpractice suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.”

As NRL News Today has reported on multiple occasions, a titanic struggle ensued when following surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids, soft pallet and uvula as well as work performed on the inside of her nose, Jahi went into cardiac arrest.

Three days later the hospital insisted the-then 13-year-old Jahi was brain dead. Her family immediately challenged that diagnosis and the hospital’s decision to take Jahi off a ventilator. After a lengthy court battle, they secured the right to move Jahi to an undisclosed location in New Jersey.

Since Jahi was moved, three doctors have signed a declaration stating Jahi McMath is not brain dead, according to bioethicist Wesley Smith.

They include Charles J. Prestigiacomo, director of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery at University Hospital in Newark and chair of the neurological surgery department at Rutgers and two internationally respected neurologists Dr. Alan Shewmon and Dr. Calixto Machado.

Reporter Henry Lee summarized the lawsuit as follows. It

accuses surgeon Frederick Rosen of recommending a “complex and risky surgery.” During the procedure on Dec. 9, 2013, Rosen noted that Jahi had a congenital condition that would put her at risk of hemorrhaging, but he failed to notify nurses and other doctors who would be taking care of her afterward, the suit alleges.

Jahi’s parents, Marvin and Nailah Winkfield, were alarmed to find their daughter coughing up blood into a container, though nurses assured them that the bleeding was “normal,” the suit says.

A nurse gave Jahi’s mother a suction wand to siphon the blood out of the girl’s mouth, according to the suit.

But Jahi continued to cough up blood, and her mother continued to suction out blood, only to be admonished by another nurse for doing so, the suit says. That nurse said suctioning the blood would “remove blood clots that are vital for her healing,” the complaint says.

Nailah Winkfield said she called her mother, Sandra Chatman, for help, because she is a nurse at another hospital. On the morning after the surgery, Chatman noticed Jahi’s heart rate “drop precipitously” and summoned the nurses to “institute a code,” or livesaving measures, the suit says. A doctor arrived and said, “S” her heart stopped,” the suit says.

The cardiac arrest lasted for more than two hours, leaving Jahi severely brain-damaged and dependent on life support, said the family’s attorney, Bruce Brusavich.

“None of this should have happened,” said Brusavich. “It should have never gotten this far.”

According to the lawsuit, the hospital allegedly told Jahi’s parents that she had “sustained significant brain damage,” and they put her on the organ donor list and were preparing to take her off life support. (The family says it never got an explanation for how this happened to Jahi.)

The lawsuit alleges that the hospital’s chief of pediatrics told the family, “What is it you don’t understand? She is dead, dead, dead, dead!”

Categories: Brain Death