Jahi McMath case
The Jahi McMath case centers on a 13-year-old girl in California who was declared brain-dead following surgery, and the bioethical debate surrounding her family's rejection of the medicolegal finding of death in this case, and their efforts to maintain her body on mechanical ventilation.
On December 9, 2013, McMath suffered massive blood loss and consequent cardiac arrest after undergoing surgery at Children's Hospital Oakland aimed at relieving symptoms from sleep apnea. The loss of blood circulation caused whole brain death, according to her doctors. Her family refused to accept the medical declaration of death by neurological criteria, said that McMath was not dead, and initiated legal proceedings in an effort to force the hospital to continue treatment. On January 3, 2014, the Alameda County coroner's office issued an unofficial death certificate for McMath with a date of December 12, 2013. The coroner's office said the death certificate was incomplete, pending an autopsy to determine cause of death.
According to court documents, McMath was admitted to Children's Hospital Oakland on December 9, 2013 to perform an adenotonsillectomy, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty and submucous resection of bilateral inferior turbinates. It was hoped these procedures would provide improved airflow during her sleep at night. The family described the surgery as a routine tonsillectomy, while the hospital described the procedure as complicated in court documents.
After the surgeries were performed, McMath was conscious and recovering and, according to her mother Latasha "Nailah" Winkfield, asked for a Popsicle while in the recovery room. She was later moved to the ICU before she started to bleed from her nose and mouth and went into cardiac arrest. During this time, blood flow to the brain was lost for an undisclosed period of time. On December 12, 2013, her doctors declared her brain-dead and her family was informed that as she was legally dead, life support systems would be removed. According to the hospital, this was in accordance with standard guidelines for determining brain death.
On December 20, 2013, McMath's family filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court, petitioning the court to require Children's Hospital Oakland to keep McMath on mechanical ventilation. In a pretrial conference on December 23, Judge Evelio Grillo appointed Paul Graham Fisher, the chief of Child Neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine, to provide an independent medical opinion. McMath's family also moved to have Paul A. Byrne, M.D. conduct his own independent examination. Byrne, a pediatric neonatologist, has campaigned against the medical consensus of accepting brain death as death. The court declined that request.
Fisher examined McMath and affirmed the diagnosis of brain death, reporting that she had no activity on an electroencephalogram, no blood flow to the brain and did not breathe when removed from mechanical ventilation, all of which are standard clinical indications of total brain death.
On December 24, 2013, Judge Grillo ruled that McMath was legally dead, basing his decision on the medical evidence presented by physicians from Children's Hospital Oakland and from independent expert Paul Fisher, but ruled to keep McMath on mechanical ventilation until December 30, 2013,. later extending this order until January 7, 2014. Grillo told the family "This has been very, very hard on you. No one anywhere would wish this to happen to anyone."
On December 30, 2013, the family appealed the decision to the Second District, California Courts of Appeal and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, calling for the hospital to continue life support measures until other arrangements could be made by the family. McMath's mother argued that applying the Uniform Determination of Death Act to the case was a violation of constitutional religious and privacy rights and that because Jahi's heart was still beating, she was still alive. Byrne stated in court documents that he witnessed McMath move in the hospital and that he considered her to be alive. The hospital stated that it would be unethical and "grotesque" to require the hospital and its doctors to provide further medical care to a dead body and referred to Byrne as an "ideologue" who does not accept the concept of brain death. The hospital further stated that reflexive movements are not uncommon in cases of brain death. After the hospital and McMath's family engaged in settlement talks, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied the family's petition to force hospital staff to perform a tracheostomy and insert a feeding tube before the transfer.
On January 5, 2014, Children's Hospital released McMath's body to the Alameda County coroner, which then released her body to the custody of her mother, who was warned of and assumed all risk regarding cardiac arrest during the transfer. The family moved the girl to an undisclosed location where a tracheostomy was performed and a feeding tube was inserted. As of March 2014, McMath’s mother continues to maintain that McMath is alive and "not a dead body."
In the aftermath of this case, a public records request enabled a report to be released in March of 2014 in which the state of California investigated Children's Hospital Oakland, primarily in response to questions about McMath's care. State officials found Children's Hospital Oakland to be in compliance with multiple assessments of patient care, with no sanctions issued.
McMath's attorney, Christopher Dolan, said that he was angered by the report and that the report illustrates "why medical negligence lawsuits are necessary". Dolan also said “the McMath family's position isn't ridiculous or unheard of. There would have been no legal battle if Jahi had had her tonsils out in New Jersey”, referring to a New Jersey state law allowing religious objection to a declaration of death on the basis of neurological criteria. At least one commentator has asked whether this case will affect how California's determination of death laws work.
In March 2014, the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network awarded McMath's family an annual award. The award recognizes "the unconditional love they have for Jahi, and their courage as they continue the fight for their daughter against overwhelming odds". McMath's mother stated she was honored to receive the award and referred to her daughter as “still asleep”, clarifying she does not use the phrase "brain dead" to refer to her daughter. 
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- OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER LIFE SUPPORT AND THE INSTALLATION OF A TRACHEOSTOMY TUBE AND GASTRIC FEEDING TUBE TO ALLOW TRANSPORTATION OF JAHI MCMATH, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Jan. 7, 2014
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