The family of 13-yr-old Jahi McMath sat in a courtroom Tuesday morning listening to the testimony of an independent medical expert confirm that their daughter was brain dead.
Dr. Paul Fisher, Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Stanford Children’s Hospital and a known expert on brain death, was assigned by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo to conduct separate tests and report on the girl’s condition.
The family has been in an uphill legal battle with Children’s Hospital Oakland, fighting to keep the girl on life support.
She had begun bleeding profusely and went into cardiac arrest three days after a routi
ne tonsillectomy surgery on Dec. 9. Doctors later declared her brain dead.
Dr. David Durand, Chief of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, released a statement saying, “It would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life.”
But Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, says she will not stop fighting for her daughter and still believes her daughter is alive.
“God has the final say, not the doctors,” she said. “The doctors think they know everything, but if they knew everything my daughter wouldn’t be brain dead.”
The hospital was involved in a similar conflict with a patient’s family in 2011, in the case of 1-yr-old Hiram Lawrence, shot in the head by a stray bullet and declared brain dead. The family complained about what they perceived as the hospital’s eagerness to take the infant off life support, even discussing organ donation with the family.
Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church and Pastor Gerald Agee, senior pastor of Friendship Christian Center and president of the Pastors of Oakland, called a press conference last Sunday on behalf of Oakland’s clergy community to show their support for Jahi’s family.
Attorney John Burris and Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks also attended the press conference.
Mayberry said he was concerned about the lack of sympathy given to the family.
“Anytime a hospital administrator, whether he or she is a doctor or any physician in the hospital, says: ‘she’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead and we want the courts to say ‘no, no, no’ – (that) represents a lack of sensitivity,” Mayberry said.
“At very best, perhaps the hospital should discipline that official, at very least, that official needs sensitivity training,” he added.
“…when you are wrong, you’re wrong,” Agee said. “You don’t need a judge to tell you you’re wrong. You need to do the right thing.”
Children’s hospital denies the statement was made, and says hospital representatives have been sympathetic to the family. Rev. Mayberry tried to hand a letter to Dr. Durand, urging the hospital to take a stand in regards to the reports of improper treatment.
However, was not allowed to deliver the letter, but an assistant met him downstairs and stated she would deliver the letter to him.
A large crowd marched last Monday in the streets near Children’s Hospital Oakland for Jahi with
signs reading, “We love you” and “Doctors can be wrong.” Winkfield said she is thankful for the support of those rallying behind Jahi – many of them people she has never met before.
“It makes me feel better because they believe just as well as I do that God has the final say on my daughter,” Winkfield said.
Later on Monday, the Alameda County Superior Court judge extended the temporary restraining order to Dec. 30, which allowed for Dr. Fisher to conduct tests and give his report Tuesday morning.
Judge Grillo ruled against the family, no longer requiring the hospital to continue additional medical care to Jahi, but the ventilator will stay hooked up until 5 p.m. on Dec. 30. He offered words of sympathy to Winkfield, encouraging her to find comfort in her religion and in the love from her family.
The family did not say what their next move would be following the judge’s ruling but they spent Christmas by her bedside, praying for a miracle.
Thursday night the family announced that a long term care facility was willing to take Jahi but a feeding and breathing tube needs to be implemented for safe transport. Children’s Hospital is unwilling to complete the procedure because the girl has been declared brain dead and therefore legally deceased.
Children’s Hospital spokesperson has also noted that Judge Grillo’s ruling only permits the hospital to keep her on a ventilator until 5pm on December 30th.
The family attorney Christopher Dolan is expected to file for another restraining order Monday morning to give the family more time to transport Jahi to a longterm care facility.