A judge has ordered an Oakland, Calif., hospital not to remove from life support a 13-year-old girl who became brain dead after having her tonsils removed.
The girl's family had requested that she remain on life support. At a hearing Friday, both sides agreed to keep Jahi McMath on a ventilator while they chose a neurologist to further examine her, the Associated Press reported. Another hearing was set for Monday.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland had performed a tonsillectomy on Jahi on Dec. 9, hoping to cure her sleep apnea, weight gain and other afflictions. But soon after her surgery, the girl's condition quickly deteriorated, her family said. Jahi went into cardiac arrest and the flow of oxygen to her brain was cut off.
The next day, a CT scan showed two-thirds of Jahi's brain had swollen. Doctors declared her brain-dead and planned to take her off life support days later until receiving a letter from an attorney who intervened at the last minute on behalf of the family.
On Thursday, Jahi's family told KNTV-TV in San Jose that hospital staff declined their request to keep the girl on life support through the Christmas holiday.
"I don't want to have my Christmas every year remind me of her being taken off a ventilator," Nailah Winkfield, Jahi's mother, told the TV station.
The family's attorney, Chris Dolan, said his clients asked the hospital to do several things, including feed the 13-year-old via a nutrition tube, keep her on the ventilator through Christmas and give the family 48 hours' notice should doctors decide to take Jahi off of life-support, the TV station reported.
Instead, during a meeting between the family and hospital staff, the family said they received a gruff response from a doctor.
"He said, 'She's dead, dead, dead, dead,' " and refused to give her any nutrition, saying, "We don't support the dead," Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The family fears that if they leave Jahi's bedside, the hospital may try to take action without informing anybody.
"They're going to have that body surrounded so that nobody can touch Jahi. They're afraid," Dolan told the Chronicle, adding that in the eyes of the hospital, "She's no longer a person. She's dead."
Hospital administrators, meanwhile, have publicly called on the family to allow them to discuss Jahi's case, citing patient privacy laws that bar them from doing so without permission.
The chief of pediatrics, Dr. David Durand, issued a statement earlier this week, saying, "We are doing everything in our capacity to provide support to the grieving family."
“Our hearts go out to this patient and her family. Unfortunately, we have not been authorized by the family to share information with the public about this matter," the statement read. "Consequently, we are not able to correct misperceptions created about this sad situation."