The release of 13-year-old Jahi McMath’s body from an Oakland hospital Sunday night is being hailed as a victory by her family and their attorney.
The girl was declared brain dead after sleep apnea surgery last month at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Her body was released Sunday by the hospital to the Alameda County coroner’s office, which in turn released the body to her mother “as per court order,” hospital officials said.
“Jahi is FREE!!! Bye Children’s Hospital,” her uncle, Omari Sealey, wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening.
Sealey – wearing a T-shirt that said #TeamJahi – joined the family’s attorney, Christopher Dolan, for a news conference Sunday night and smiled when Dolan said the girl was “with her mother, where she should be.”
“Today is a victory for Jahi,” Dolan said.
Dolan would not specify where the girl was taken but said “there will be doctors involved.”
He said he and the family did not want her location known because “the family has real concerns” about her safety.
Dolan said he and Jahi’s family members have received hundreds of threatening e-mails. He said people have told him he was unethical for representing the family and should be killed and that “somebody should just come down there and pull that plug.”
Dolan said the family’s fight “is not a political campaign,” despite the criticism they have received.
“This was a person. This is a person. This is a family,” he said. “If it is unethical to give someone hope, then what are we going to do? Shut down the churches, the schools?”
The Alameda County coroner’s office issued a death certificate Friday, listing Dec. 12 as Jahi’s date of death, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Dolan said the family never received a copy of the death certificate and that the cause of death was pending.
Hospital officials said they could not comment on the state of Jahi’s body when it was released.
Jahi suffered complications, including heavy bleeding and cardiac arrest, on Dec. 12, three days after the surgery. Two hospital physicians and multiple outside doctors requested by the family deemed her brain-dead, court records show, and the county coroner was notified.
Jahi’s family protested the hospital’s intention to remove her from a ventilator, saying she was not dead and that her heart was still beating.
Sealey said that since the surgery there were two people in Jahi’s room at all times and that she “was never alone.” He said the hospital staff tried to limit the family’s visiting hours and that they were unfriendly to the family.
“They refer to my niece as the deceased body…they never referred to her as Jahi McMath after the 12th,” Sealey said.