Teen dies four years after being declared legally ‘brain dead’ by doctors
OAKLAND, California, July 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Jahi McMath, declared dead four-and-a-half years ago at age 13 by California doctors, has died in New Jersey, her family announced last week.
Nailah Winkfield said her daughter died on June 22 from excessive bleeding and liver failure after surgery for an intestinal issue in a New Jersey hospital, Associated Press reported June 28.
Winkfield gained national prominence when she fought California’s laws and medical establishment to keep Jahi alive after doctors pronounced her brain-dead in December 2013.
“I miss her already, because I gave up everything for Jahi,” she said in a Tuesday press conference in San Francisco.
“And I have no regrets, not one. The only regret I ever had was bringing her to the hospital to get her tonsils removed, that’s the only regret I’ll ever have,” she said.
“Everything that I did, from selling my house, to quitting my job, to moving across the country, giving up all the time I gave up with my family, it was all worth it.”
Jahi went into cardiac arrest and lost oxygen to her brain after suffering severe bleeding following surgery at the Children’s Hospital Oakland (now the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland) for sleep apnea and to remove her tonsils.
Doctors then refused to treat Jahi because the “brain dead” diagnosis classified her as legally dead according to a 1983 California state law.
Winkfield and her husband Marvin, Jahi’s step-father, won court approval in 2014 to move their daughter to New Jersey, which allows families to reject a diagnosis of “brain death” on religious grounds.
But Winkfield had to agree to a death certificate in order to move Jahi out of state, according to Dr. Paul Byrne, a well-known opponent of the concept of “brain death” who flew from Ohio to California to advocate for Winkfield after he saw her on TV pleading “for someone to help her.”
Jahi was “alive in California, but the mother had to go along with the death certificate, because that was the only way they would release her,” Byrne told LifeSiteNews.
“And then they released her to the mother as a dead body.”
But the Winkfields launched a court action in 2015 to nullify the death certificate the Alameda County coroner’s office issued, according to the SF Chronicle.
They also launched a lawsuit against the hospital, the state and Alameda County officials for alleged medical malpractice, it reported.
Indeed, the family’s lawyer Christopher Dolan suggested the hospital was delaying the case until Jahi died, according to the Mercury News.
That’s because California caps damages for wrongful death at $250,000, but damages for ongoing medical expenses resulting from malpractice could run to millions.
Another family lawyer, Bruce Brusavich, told the SF Chronicle June 29 he was going to contact the court about Jahi’s death and request the malpractice trial proceed in February as scheduled.
If the case proceeds and a jury declares the 2013 California death certificate null, it would be the first time a court has done so, and would allow the family to seek damages for medical expenses up to Jahi’s June 22 death, reported SF Gate.
If the jury upholds the 2013 death certificate, the claim for damages would be restricted to $250,000 for wrongful death.
The Winkfields say their daughter’s New Jersey death certificate should supplant California’s 2013 death certificate.
“My child was never dead, she was always alive and I thank God that the state of New Jersey realized that and that’s why she has a whole other death certificate with a whole other cause of death,” Winkfield told the press conference.
That’s echoed by lawyer Dolan, who says the second death certificate is proof the California death certificate is invalid, the Chronicle reported.
“How do you issue a death certificate on someone who is already dead?” asked Dolan.
At the time of her death, Jahi had just turned 17 and had been living at home in an undisclosed city, where she received up to 16 hours of home care a day from doctors and nurses that was covered by New Jersey’s Medicaid program, reported SFGate.
Although Jahi relied on a ventilator and a feeding tube, neurologist Dr. Alan Shewmon asserted last year her condition was improving, the SF Chronicle reported in July 2017.
“Jahi McMath is a living, severely disabled young lady, who currently fulfills neither the standard diagnostic guidelines for brain death nor California’s statutory definition of death,” Shewmon, a professor emeritus of pediatrics and neurology at UCLA, declared in an court affidavit filed in June 2017.
Winkfield said as much at Tuesday’s press conference.
“There’s no way in the world that I would be holding onto a corpse for 4½ years,” she said, noting that Jahi started menstruating during that time and appeared to communicate through hand movements.
“They really didn't want Jahi to live, they didn't want her to beat the odds, but that little black girl from Oakland made history and I'm so proud of her,” said Winkfield.
Dr. Byrne sees dark and sinister motives behind the idea of “brain death,” which he excoriated as entirely bogus and driven by profit.
The organ transplant industry billed “$34 billion in 2017” and is a “multi-billion industry completely dependent on getting healthy organs from living persons,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“‘Brain death’ is something that was made up so they could pretend that somebody is dead while the heart is beating and there’s circulation and respiration,” said Byrne.
“It’s completely fake. It’s fake death, and they’re not dead.”
Many people, however, have been “brainwashed,” and they “get in the medical system, and they think it’s okay, and they go along with it,” he said.
But then there are times “when someone demonstrates the love for their child like Nailah did for Jahi,” and they stand up and say, “No, she’s not dead. No, you can’t stop her treatment.”
Jahi McMath’s funeral will be held Friday morning, July 6, at the Acts Gospel Church in Oakland, California.