OAKLAND, CA, January 6, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who was declared legally dead by hospital staff and county officials after suffering complications from a routine tonsillectomy, has been released to her family to seek treatment elsewhere. The move comes after a settlement was reached Friday in Alameda County Superior Court between the girl’s family and Children’s Hospital.
The family had been fighting to remove Jahi from the hospital since December 12, when hospital staff declared the girl “brain dead” after she went into cardiac arrest while recovering from surgery.
Because brain death is the definition of legal death in California, the hospital wanted to remove Jahi from the ventilator that is helping her to breathe, and had the Alameda County coroner issue a death certificate. But Jahi’s family obtained a restraining order preventing the hospital from ending Jahi’s life, citing their strong religious faith and their belief that as long as Jahi’s heart is beating, she is still alive and may one day recover.
According to David Durand, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics, Jahi was released Sunday night to the Alameda County coroner, who then released her to her mother, Nailah Winkfield. The hospital had maintained all along that it could not transfer the girl directly to another care facility because that would require a number of medical procedures they were unwilling to perform or allow since she is “legally dead.”
“Today is a victory for Jahi,” said family attorney Christopher Dolan at a press conference following Jahi’s release. He declined to tell reporters where the girl was being taken, citing “real concerns” about her safety since, he said, he and the girl’s family have received hundreds of threatening e-mails calling for Dolan’s death and saying “somebody should just come down there and pull that plug.”
“We've had people make threats from around the country. It's sad that people act that way,” Dolan said. “So for Jahi's safety and those around her, we will not be saying where she went or where she is.”
Dolan said some of the death threats he has received called him ‘unethical’ for representing Jahi’s family, a charge he denied. “This is a person. This is a family,” Dolan said. “If it is unethical to give someone hope, then what are we going to do? Shut down the churches, the schools?”
While Children’s Hospital Spokesman Sam Singer said last month that “No amount of prayer, no amount of hope, no amount of any type of medical procedure will bring [Jahi] back,” other medical professionals argue that brain death is an inadequate definition of death.
Dr. Paul Byrne, who has personally examined Jahi and is supporting Jahi's family, has argued for years that “brain death” is a fabricated concept designed to allow doctors to harvest healthy organs from living patients, as in the case of a woman in New York who unexpectedly woke up this summer just as her organs were about to be removed.
“Brain death was invented, conjured, made-up to get organ transplants,” said Dr. Byrne, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Toledo previously told LifeSiteNews. He said that only New York and New Jersey have conscience clauses that protect patients who have been declared brain dead from being taken off life support against the will of their legal guardians. “In the other 48 states, there is nothing in their laws to give any kind of protection to the person declared brain dead,” Byrne told LSN. “All of the laws — and I mean all of them — all revolve around getting organs.”
Alyson Scerri, who runs the New Beginnings Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center in New York, says she is hopeful that Jahi may yet recover, as other patients who have been declared “brain dead” have when their families have refused to allow hospital officials to withdraw life support.
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“Her brain needs time to heal. It's a new injury,” Scerri told CNN Sunday. “We believe in life after injury. All of us here at New Beginnings have firsthand experience because we have a loved one that was in the same situation as Jahi.”
While Scerri’s facility had been listed in court documents as a possible option for Jahi’s long-term care, she declined to confirm for CNN that Jahi was being taken there.
Jahi’s family has created a GoFundMe page for people to contribute to her ongoing care. So far, more than $50,000 has been donated.