NRL News

Jahi McMath’s family files federal suit to have her death certificate revoked

by | Jan 4, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

Jahi McMath and mom

Jahi McMath and mom

We last wrote about Jahi McMath, a remarkable young girl, in October and November.

Jahi, now 15, has been the focus of a tremendous legal battle ever since she suffered cardiac arrest following routine surgery and was soon after declared brain-dead, a diagnosis her family and some very respected physicians adamantly disagree with.

To borrow from bioethicist Wesley J. Smith writing in November, her family had been given the opportunity to file an amended complaint in their medical malpractice action against Oakland Children’s Hospital and one of its physicians “showing that Jahi is alive, with the assurance that if properly pleaded, evidence of life could be brought. She seems to have done just that.”

While I do not know the subsequent ins and the outs, we learn in a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle that “The family of Oakland teen Jahi McMath has filed a federal lawsuit to get her death certificate revoked after an unsuccessful attempt to do so at the state level, attorneys for the family said.”

Reporter Jenna Lyons explains:

In the suit, Jahi’s current physician claims the 15-year-old has shown brain activity several times in her presence in the past few months.

At a news conference at the law offices of Christopher Dolan in San Francisco, Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, addressed the media in an online video from New Jersey, insisting her daughter is alive.

“There’s no way in the world I’d be holding onto a dead person,” she said. “I want her to have the same rights any other disabled child has. I definitely believe that God will heal her. I’ll pull a trigger on myself before I pull a plug on her.”

Jahi’s grandmother, Sandra Chatman, said she had visited Jahi and that she was progressing.

“I ask her to give me a thumbs-up, and she does it,” Chatman said, speaking from Dolan’s law office. “She’s just doing awesome. I couldn’t be more proud of Jahi.”

Following December 9, 2013, surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids, and extra sinus tissue to treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, Jahi went into cardiac arrest. Three days later she was diagnosed as brain-dead and a titanic legal battle began in earnest when UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland sought to remove Jahi from a ventilator over the family’s vigorous objections.

Following a series of court hearings, during which the hospital never backed down from its insistence that “This is a deceased young woman,” a deal was brokered during a hearing before Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo. It allowed Ms. Winkfield to remove her daughter from the hospital as long as she assumed “full responsibility.”

Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith has followed Jahi’s case closely and NRL News Today has reposted his posts. Probably the most significant fact to date is that “her body has apparently not deteriorated as generally occurs in a brain death situation,” as Wesley Smith wrote

However it is not Jahi’s family alone that believes she is not brain-dead. “Declarations from respected physicians have concluded she exhibits neurological functions that are inconsistent with a deceased person,” Wesley wrote.

Lyons reports that Jahi’s current doctor, Dr. Alieta Eck, has made a declaration in the suit that she believes the teen is alive. This after caring for her for months.

“While Jahi McMath has suffered a serious, and significant brain injury, and exhibits the presentation of one who has suffered serious brain trauma, and exhibits signs and characteristics of serious brain damage, Jahi McMath is not dead,” Eck stated. “She exhibits signs of brain function.”

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Categories: Brain Death