Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jahi McMath, the brain dead girl, has died

Jahi McMath, the California teen whose family fought for her medical care after doctors declared her brain dead in December 2013, has died after she underwent surgery in New Jersey, relatives announced Thursday.

Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, said doctors declared McMath dead from excessive bleeding and liver failure after an operation to treat an intestinal issue. She died on June 22, the Bay Area News Group reported. 

Her case had been at the center of a national debate over brain death since the mother refused to remove her daughter from life support. On Dec. 9, 2013, McMath went to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for a complex nose and throat surgery. Doctors said she had irreversible brain damage from a lack of oxygen and suffered cardiac arrest. A coroner in California signed a death certificate the following month.

McMath’s family gained custody of the girl’s body in 2014 and moved her to New Jersey, the only state in the U.S. with a law that prohibits doctors from removing brain-dead patients from ventilators over families’ religious objections.

"Jahi wasn't brain dead or any kind of dead," Winkfield said. "She was a girl with a brain injury and she deserved to be cared for like any other child who had a brain injury."

Winkfield acknowledged her daughter's dire medical condition but said her Christian beliefs compelled her to fight for care because the girl occasionally showed physical signs of life by twitching her finger or wiggling her toe.

The death certificate in New Jersey listed the cause of death as bleeding.

"I’m devastated about losing my daughter," Winkfield told the Bay Area News Group. "Everything I did revolved around Jahi."


1 comment:

  1. “Jahi wasn't brain dead or any kind of dead,” her mother, Nailah Winkfield, told the Associated Press. “She was a girl with a brain injury, and she deserved to be cared for like any other child who had a brain injury.”

    Years after the legal standoff to keep her on a ventilator, the Oakland girl died late last week when an operation to treat an intestinal issue led to excessive bleeding and liver failure, Winkfield said. Jahi died in New Jersey, which accommodates families whose religious beliefs don’t recognize brain death.

    A man who identified himself as Jahi’s stepfather said Winkfield was having a tough time and was unavailable for further comment. He also declined to comment.

    Jahi’s case, which drew national attention and launched a debate over how to define death, began in December 2013 when the 13-year-old underwent a routine surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula. She was declared brain dead three days later after she went into cardiac arrest and suffered extensive brain hemorrhaging.

    At the time, at least three neurologists confirmed that Jahi was unable to breathe on her own, had no blood flow to her brain and had no sign of electrical activity. The Alameda County coroner issued a death certificate.

    Her family was allowed in early 2014 to remove her from the hospital on a ventilator and, after they raised money for a private jet, flew her to a Catholic hospital in New Jersey. She later received care at a New Jersey home.

    That year, her family released a video of Jahi moving her foot, her toenails painted, at her mother’s urging. Jahi was wrapped in a butterfly blanket, a Mother’s Day poster hanging behind her bed.

    Last year, Dr. Alan Shewmon, a retired UCLA neurologist and well-known critic of diagnosing brain death, said in court documents that Jahi’s body had not deteriorated as expected. He said videos showed Jahi twitching her fingers and reacting to odors.

    Jahi’s family had sought to reverse her California death certificate as part of a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Relying on Shewmon’s statements, a judge last year ruled that it was up to a jury to determine whether the girl was still alive.

    To move from Oakland to New Jersey, Winkfield left her job, sold her home and temporarily had her family members care for her other children, the Bay Area News Group reported. Every day, the girl’s mother would “wash her, comb her hair, do her nails, watch TV and explain what was going on,” the news group reported.

    “I’m devastated about losing my daughter,” Winkfield told the news agency. “Everything I did revolved around Jahi.”

    The New Yorker reported that before Jahi had her tonsils removed, she peppered her doctor with questions, asking him how many times he’d done the surgery and if he slept enough the night before. Winkfield told her daughter to continue asking questions. “It’s your body,” she had said, the New Yorker reported. “Feel free to ask that man whatever you want.”

    Christopher Dolan, the family’s attorney, told the Bay Area News Group that Jahi’s body will be taken back to Oakland next week. Her brain will be preserved for scientists to study. He did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

    It’s unclear whether Jahi’s family will continue their legal fight moving forward.