The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 30, 2013

NY facility ‘last hope’ for Jahi McMath

OAKLAND, Calif. — The family of a California girl who has been declared brain dead says a facility in New York may be able to accept her and keep her on life support.

Jahi McMath’s uncle and lawyer didn’t provide the facility’s name in a statement Saturday, saying they don’t want media attention to affect her chance of being accepted there.

Attorney Chris Dolan said the New York facility is the last hope after two facilities in California backed out.

Timing is short for the family. A judge ruled that Children’s Hospital Oakland may remove the 13-year-old from life support at 5 p.m. Monday unless an appeal is filed.

Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa said the hospital has not heard from any facility to discuss how it can accommodate “a deceased body on a ventilator.”  

An attorney says a nursing home has agreed to provide long-term care for a 13-year-old girl, who has been declared brain dead but whose family maintains is still alive.

A southern California facility agreed after another nursing home backed out, the family’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, said Friday.

He wouldn’t provide its name, saying “we’re afraid they’ll be inundated with press” and decide to back out as well.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery at Children’s Hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest. Doctors at Children’s Hospital concluded the girl was brain dead on Dec. 12 and wanted to remove her from life support. The family said they believe she is still alive.

Before Jahi can be transferred, she must undergo two more medical procedures — the insertion of a breathing tube and a feeding tube, both of which would be necessary for her long-term care but which the nursing home is not equipped to perform.

The hospital has refused to perform the procedures.

“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” David Durand, its chief of pediatrics, said in a statement Thursday.

Douglas Straus, a lawyer for the hospital, said in a letter made public Friday that before the hospital would comply with the family’s request to move Jahi, it would need to speak directly with officials at any nursing home to make sure they understand her condition, “including the fact that Jahi is brain dead” — and to discuss needed preparations, including transportation.

“Children’s Hospital will of course continue to do everything legally and ethically permissible to support the family of Jahi McMath. In that regard, Children’s will allow a lawful transfer of Jahi’s body in its current state to another location if the family can arrange such a transfer and Children’s can legally do so,” Straus wrote in the letter.

He also said the Alameda County coroner needed to sign off on the move “since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead.”

The letter was sent to Dolan after Dolan said he was preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the hospital to outfit Jahi with breathing and feeding tubes. He said the hospital’s refusal to cooperate violated her family’s religious, due process rights and privacy rights.

In fulfillment of the hospital’s request, Dolan said he had held a three-way conference call Friday with Straus and the director of the nursing home.

Dolan also told the Associated Press on Friday that he had already obtained signed consent from the coroner for Jahi’s transfer.

The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau said it had no comment.

Jahi’s uncle, Omari Sealey, said earlier on Friday the family was in talks with three nursing homes — two in Los Angeles and one in New York — that might be willing to take her.

The girl’s relatives had announced on Thursday that they had found a nursing home in the San Francisco Bay Area that was willing to care for the girl if she had the tubes. Within hours, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics issued a statement saying Children’s would not cooperate because it “does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice.”

Upon learning of the hospital’s position, that facility backed out.

Dolan said he is hoping the hospital officials will change their mind about the surgery after speaking with the nursing home officials.

If they don’t, he said, the family’s options are slim, but he is hoping the Alameda County judge will give them some more time Monday to find a doctor willing to perform the surgeries.

 

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