Court Blocks Hospital From Disconnecting Girl From Life Support

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(Photo credit: Omari Sealey via CNN)

(Photo credit: Omari Sealey via CNN)

(Photo credit: Omari Sealey via CNN)

(CNN) — They thought the tonsil surgery would help her. She feared she’d never wake up.

Now, a 13-year-old girl once known for smiling, giggling and dropping off her sister every day at kindergarten lies motionless in a California hospital bed, hooked up to machines that doctors say are the only thing keeping her heart beating.

There have been days of prayers and protests for Jahi McMath. There was a fierce court battle as a devastated family fought to keep her on life support and doctors argued she had already died. The case drew national attention and fueled debate.

Doctors and a judge have declared her brain dead and said there’s no chance Jahi will come back to life.

A deadline loomed Monday as a judge had said the hospital could disconnect the machines after 5 p.m. (8 p.m. ET). But shortly before Jahi could have been cut off, that same judge extended his order to 5 p.m. (8 p.m. ET) on January 7.

The girl’s family told reporters it had located a facility in New York willing to take Jahi. The Oakland hospital, however, will not allow them to move her, according to the girl’s uncle, Omari Sealey.

Attorneys for the family are filing a new complaint in federal court requesting a temporary restraining order and an injunction to prevent the hospital from disconnecting Jahi from life support, he said. They also are filing an appeal with California appellate courts.

It’s unclear what will happen next.

But one thing is certain, an official told reporters on Monday.

“There are no winners in this very tragic case,” Children’s Hospital Oakland spokesman Sam Singer said.

Bleeding, cardiac arrest and brain death

Family members say the 8th grader was alert and talking after doctors removed her tonsils, adenoids and extra sinus tissue in a surgery earlier this month.

Doctors had recommended the surgery to treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, a condition which made her stop breathing in her sleep and caused other medical problems.

Before the surgery, Jahi said she was worried that she would never wake up, according to her uncle. She seemed fine after the surgery, but asked for a Popsicle because her throat hurt.

It wasn’t long before something went terribly wrong.

In the intensive care unit, the girl began bleeding profusely — an image her mother told CNN would be forever seared in her mind.

According to family members, Jahi went into cardiac arrest. Days later, she was declared brain dead.

Hospital officials have said privacy laws prevent them from discussing details of the case.

In court documents and public comments, they’ve maintained that there’s no doubt that McMath is brain dead, describing the condition as irreversible. An independent doctor and a judge supported that conclusion last week.

“No amount of prayer, no amount of hope, no amount of any type of medical procedure will bring her back,” Singer said Monday. “The medical situation here in this case is that Jahi McMath died several weeks ago.”

Family raises money, searches for answers

But Jahi’s family members maintain that they’re hoping for a miracle and want to transfer the girl from Children’s Hospital Oakland to another facility.

Jahi’s family told CNN affiliate KGO that it spent Sunday working the phones, trying to line something up.

Media reports suggest one treatment location option fell through. The attorney representing Jahi’s family did not respond to requests from CNN for comment on the matter.

So far the family has raised more than $26,000 on GoFundMe.com to move her. According to the site, more than 700 people have donated money in three days.

“To our knowledge, they (the family) do not have a facility to move the body to,” Singer told reporters earlier Monday.

Court document reveals details

Medical ethicists, meanwhile, say the high-profile case fuels a misperception: that “brain death” is somehow not as final as cardiac death, even though, by definition, it is. The case is “giving the impression that dead people can come back to life,” Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, told CNN last week

CNN has obtained a copy of a medical report, contained in a court filing, that lays out in extensive detail the testing that supports the hospital’s conclusion that McMath has no hope of recovery.

The report was prepared by Dr. Paul Fisher, Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Stanford University, who was appointed by Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo to examine the girl and report his findings to the court.

Fisher found that the girl’s pupils were fully dilated and unresponsive to light and that she did not respond to a variety of intense stimuli.

His report also says McMath showed no sign of breathing on her own when a ventilator was removed: “Patient failed apnea test.” While the family has referred to Jahi’s heart beating, the report says it is only beating because of the mechanical ventilator.

In addition, an imaging test showed no blood flow to Jahi’s brain, while another showed no sign of electrical activity.

Fisher’s conclusion: “Overall, unfortunate circumstances in 13-year-old with known, irreversible brain injury and now complete absence of cerebral function and complete absence of brainstem function, child meets all criteria for brain death, by professional societies and state of California.”

Family criticizes hospital

Jahi’s family has criticized the hospital’s handling of the matter, accusing doctors of pressuring them to disconnect life support.

“We wish to acknowledge that Jahi’s case, and our stance regarding her right to life, and her mother’s right to make decisions regarding her child, has stirred a vibrant, sometimes polarizing, national debate. This was never our intention,” the family’s statement said. “We have our strong religious convictions and set of beliefs and we believe that, in this country, a parent has the right to make decisions concerning the existence of their child: not a doctor who looks only at lines on a paper, or reads the cold black and white words on a law that says ‘brain dead’ and definitely not a doctor who runs the facility that caused the brain death in the first place.”

Singer, the hospital spokesman, described the situation Monday as tragic “by every measure of the word.”

“There has been some limited conversation between the hospital’s attorney and the family’s attorney, but that’s a privileged communication and I have no update on behalf of the hospital at this moment,” he said, “other than to say our hearts, our sympathy, go out to this family and the young woman’s body on the respirator at this hospital.”

27 comments

  • doesn't matter

    Sleep apnea, most commonly caused by obesity. It is unfortunate but the family needs to understand that a lot of this has to do with Jahi’s size and state of obvious poor health. In my opinion, they need to let the poor girl go.

      • state_facts

        Yeah Mz, Taylor…keep believing in that mystical beast. This poor kid is dead, called science, and your a poor excuse of a “christian”…typical mean and judgmental.

    • Blessed woman

      Sleep apnea more commonly affects individuals With weight issues but not necessarily caused by being overweight. My daughter was born with apnea and she was only 4lbs. My stepdad has apnea and he is fit and slim. I’m not saying her weight was not a factor, however, if it was then the doctor shouldn’t have recommended surgery for a 12-13yr old. Instead he should offered an alternative eating plan. I do agree the parents should not keep her suffering and should pull the plug but as a mother I can understand where they are coming from.

      • smokin

        as a father i understand too but when you get 6 doctors that say shes gone, and 2 hospitals that decline her that means let her go, its common sense

  • heather

    i hope she wakes up i saw this on the news at clev clinic last week waiting for my boyfriend michael to be called into the drs office but if she doesnt just know that she is in a better place and you have a cute little angel up in heaven looking down on you and your family i said a prayer for her best wishes to you all xo

  • Sandy

    Sadly The Lord has already made His decision. I feel so badly for her parents. I can’t even begin to imagin the pain they are going through. What should be looked at is long term. Oxygen is not going to her brain. She will not be living, even if she does “wake up”, vital areas have been deprived of oxygen to long. She will need constant care, 24/7.. She will not recognize anyone, nor will she be able to participate even remotely in anything. What is going to happen when she turns 19…. When her parents turn 50 or 60? This is a very sad situation, but the right thing needs to be done. I am a mother and like every mother, I want my children to live long happy and productive lives, but sometimes it is just out of our hands and in the hands of someone more powerful. To jahi’s parents, you are in my prayers to find comfort and strength to get through this very difficult time.

  • Bernadettw shine

    IT’S SO UNFORTUNATE THAT AT SUCH A TRAGIC TIME THERE AVTUALLY PEOPLE THAT STILL THINK IT’S OK TO SAY INSENSITIVE, UNNECESSARY, MEAN, THOUGHTLESS THINGS. NOT ONLY IS HER WEIGHT NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS IT’S INSIGNIFICANT AT THIS POINT. IF YOU CAN’T FIND IT IN YOUR HEART TO BE UPLIFTING AND ENCOURAGING TO THIS MOTHER AND FAMILY THEN HOW ABOUT YOU REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THIS CONVERSATION!! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!…MS TAYLOR

    • Ms. Taylor

      Re-check you facts, Ms. Shine. I said NOTHING negative about this beautiful soul! I accept your apology Bernadettw.

  • Bernadettw shine

    You said nothing about her soul and neither did I but you implied het current state is due to her “obesity,”which it seems you were directing at the mother as if her burdens arent heavy enough.i have no problem apologizing when im wrong but you have not given me a reason to offer one

    • Blessed woman

      You should reread the comments because it was not her that made the comment it was the person named “doesn’t matter” who made the obesity comment. It’s sad that bickering and negativity would take place under an article where a little child has lost their life. So in this case you are wrong!!

  • LeLe

    Wow this is so sad…it is even sadder that grown men and women are being selfish and arguing while this family is sad,lost and confused. We should all be praying to God that this family finds peace and courage… strength and understanding….not bickering .My Gods never changing hand comfort and guide this family…

  • Smiff

    I could care less how she got this way. I can only pray for her and her family as they go through this very tough time in their lives. I wish the outcome could be different, but it seems that all has been determined already. Rest in Peace, sweet angel. You’re in a way better place.

  • Sue Cox

    Remember Karen Ann Quinlan? Look her up on the internet. Her parents have written several books on their experiences.Laws were passed because of Karen, and the fight her parents put up. Karen passed in 1985. She is still changing lives today.

  • Karen Robinson

    She is unfortunetly a vegetable and all they do is breathe. How selfish of the mother to waste time, money, resources and court time to fit her selfish needs. Mom has separation issues and needs to lets go. She is only proving what an unfit mother she is. I would be damned if my child would continue to suffer when her time has come and gone. Whats Mom think is going to happen? This child is not going to awaken and roll over and smile at her. You need a brain for that.

  • cenadog

    Leave the neg comments out i delt with a brain death before its hard to let go if this is how the family wants to do let them greave in there own way god bless this girl n her family

  • MrsLittle

    I’m not being rude or selfish with this comment, but i believe the hospital did mess up and it was wrong of them to not give further explanation. But the fact of the matter is, the little girl if she comes off that machine, i agree, she will be a vegatable and i just wouldn’t want to see my child there but not there. Very touching story being that she saw her own death, so with that being said, this aint nothing, nothing but God. Please pray for this family, this is a tough decision and none of us can really say what we will do, h3ll i be ready to kill the docs jus for giving my daughter a shot, so nobody knows how they gonna react when it comes to their children and the love we have for our children. One thing about moms we know and this woman is a mom, she knows what she needs to do.

  • Crystal

    My heart breaks for this family. She’s gone but in all honesty I may respond the same way as them. I’d hold on to every ounce of hope I could but eventually you have to make that choice. Just harder when it’s a child involved.

  • Charlon

    I can not believe how insentive people are! The cardiac arrest came from bleeding which has nothing to do with sleep apnea! She hemmoraged as a result she had a heart attack!

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