The family of Jahi McMath has seen a partial win in the brain death case against Children’s Hospital in Oakland, as the 13-year-old has been moved to a care facility. This was the family’s only hope after a judge ruled on Christmas Eve that the teenager was dead and could be taken off life-support as the hospital wanted to do.
The family had until December 31 to lodge an appeal, which was when they made it clear they wanted to move McMath to a care facility. Before transportation, breathing and feeding tubs needed to be placed into the body of the 13-year-old, but the hospital refused to do it on the grounds that it was unnecessary when the teenager was dead.
After a week-long battle, the hospital left the ventilator in place so McMath could be transported; but no feeding tube was put in place. The coroner released the body to her mother on Monday, and the transfer happened quietly and easily.
Christopher Dolan, the lawyer for the family, refused to give details of the facility that the girl has been moved to. Previous facilities were mentioned, one in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles, which led to them pulling out their offer after an increase in media attention. To prevent this third and final offer being pulled, the family decided the name and location needed to be kept secret.
$50,000 was raised to help fund the care bill for the teen, whose brain death condition is irreversible. Donations were sent in after the family made their story public. It is a sad case, but by allowing McMath’s body to be moved to the care facility, the family has partially won in this brain death case. It may lead to some hope for other families that are experience similar situations.
McMath went in for a routine procedure to help her sleep apnea. Although there were no complications during the surgery, afterward she began to lose large amounts of blood, suffered brain hemorrhaging, and ultimately went into cardiac arrest. She never regained consciousness after the heart attack, and three days later, doctors declared McMath brain dead. The family refused to believe it, and fought as hard as they could to prevent the 13-year-old Californian girl being taken off life-support.
The case has left many medical experts and campaign groups divided. Even pro-life advocates have been divided on the situation. There have been some advocates who liken it to the 2005 case of Terri Schiavo, whose husband, Michael Schiavo, had battled her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, for the right to remove the feeding tube which had sustained Shiavo for over a decade after heart failure had left her in a persistantly vegetative state. Michael Schiavo finally won the right to have his wife’s feeding tube removed on March 18, 2005, and his wife died on March 31. The Schindlers had argued that Schaivo’s condition was treatable, and they believed there was hope for recovery, even though three out of the five doctors who examined Schaivo for the court battle deemed her brain damage as permanent.
Unlike Schaivo, who still showed brain activity despite being in a vegetative state, many point out that the brain death of McMath is irreversible. There is no brain activity at all, which means that she is medically dead. Her bodily functions are only surviving due to the respirator, and she will never walk out of the hospital without some type of miracle.
Brain death was not decided on lightly by the doctors. Two doctors had to run separate tests and came to the same conclusion. A court appointed neurologist also ran tests, which came to the same diagnosis. While it may seem that the family has won in the brain death case by moving McMath to a care facility, it is a sad time for all.
By Alexandria Ingham