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Jahi McMath family attorney fires back at medical ethics critics

Consumers

The attorney who successfully fought in court to keep 13-year-old Jahi McMath on a ventilator at an Oakland hospital for weeks after she was declared brain dead defended his actions this week, calling the case a fight for family rights.

Christopher Dolan has been widely criticized as having fed false hope to the McMath family that somehow their daughter -- declared brain dead by at least three neurologists and issued a death certificate by the Alameda County coroner -- will recover.

PHOTOS: The Jahi McMath case

But in an interview with the Bay Area's KNTV-TV posted on Friday, Dolan rebuked those accusations, saying he only became involved in the case to fight for the McMath family's rights.

“One thing that’s really offended me, I mean really offended me, is that I am misleading this family, that I’m giving them false hope," he said. "Well that means that this family is dumb, and I really resent that. That somehow they’re going to be hoodwinked by some lawyer that’s manipulating them. These are smart people.”

Dolan also took some heat when Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog sent out a fundraising appeal saying that, because of a state-imposed $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, hospitals have an incentive "to let children like Jahi die."

Dolan -- a board member for Consumer Attorneys of California, the main group funding a campaign to lift medical malpractice awards cap -- told local media he did not condone using Jahi to score political points or raise money.

Jahi underwent surgery Dec. 9 to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula at Children's Hospital Oakland. She was declared brain-dead three days later after going into cardiac arrest and suffering extensive hemorrhaging in her brain.

Dolan helped Jahi's family members win a court order keeping her on a ventilator, and eventually permission to transfer her to an undisclosed care facility.

But he has previously acknowledged that subsequent medical examinations have revealed that Jahi's body is in "very bad shape." Experts say it's inevitable that her body will continue to deteriorate, and that any mechanical assistance rendered will only "maintain an illusion of life where none exists."

[For the Record, 12:25 p.m. PST, Jan. 10, 2014: An earlier version of this post referred to Dolan as a board member for Consumer Watchdog. He is a board member for Consumer Attorneys of California.]

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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