Jahi McMath: Girl declared brain dead not suffering, mom writes

Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead after having tonsil surgery at an Oakland hospital but whose parents refused to take her off a ventilator, is not suffering, her mother wrote Wednesday.

The teen was at the center of a patient’s rights struggle between her family and the Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland after her death. She has since been moved to an unnamed long-term care facility.

"I can tell you that she is much better physically since she has left Children's Hospital and I see changes that give me hope," Nailah Winkfield wrote Wednesday in a Facebook message to KTVU-TV.

She did not provide any details on Jahi's physical condition.

"Please know that all of the support we received has been used towards helping Jahi," Winkfield wrote. "On the long hard days when I'm feeling down, I think about all the people who are praying for me and Jahi and I feel so much better."

Attorney Christopher Dolan said last month that the family wanted to lie low as it kept vigil over Jahi. Family members need to "heal up from this whole experience" and have "some quiet time" away from media questions, he added at the time.

Dolan helped Jahi's family members win a court order keeping her on a ventilator, and eventually permission to transfer her to the undisclosed care facility, despite broad consensus among medical experts that the body will continue to deteriorate.

Jahi was declared brain dead Dec. 12 after surgery three days earlier to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula at the hospital.

Dolan's public comments on the state of Jahi's body did not sit well with medical ethicists, who note that at least three neurologists confirmed the girl was unable to breathe on her own and had no blood flow to her brain, and the brain showed no sign of electrical activity.

The Alameda County coroner issued a death certificate without performing an autopsy. Bodies of the brain dead have been maintained on respirators for months or, in rare cases, years.

However, once cessation of all brain activity is confirmed, there is no recovery, Rebecca S. Dresser, professor of law and ethics in medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, told The Times.


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