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Brain-dead Jahi McMath 'wasted away' at Oakland hospital, lawyer says

Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl declared brain-dead last month after undergoing a complex tonsillectomy, is being given nutritional support, hormones and antibiotics to combat infections that grew as she “wasted away” at an Oakland hospital, the family’s attorney said Monday.

Children's Hospital Oakland released Jahi's body Sunday to the Alameda County coroner’s office, which in turn transferred the body to a facility where she will receive “all of the healthcare that any human being should deserve to have," family attorney Christopher Dolan said at a news conference.

The location of the facility would not be disclosed due in part to threats he and the family have received, Dolan added.

Jahi suffered heavy bleeding, cardiac arrest and "whole brain death" -- defined as an irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem -- on Dec. 12, three days after complex tonsillectomy surgery.

Two hospital physicians and three outside doctors requested by the family deemed her brain-dead, court records show.

Dolan said it was exceptionally difficult to find a facility that would accept Jahi's body. Several agreed and later reneged as the end of the court order keeping her on a ventilator loomed.

The family is now relieved she is in a facility “where’s she’s going to be treated like the innocent little girl that she is, and not like a deceased body as Children’s Hospital has been treating her,” Dolan said.

Jahi was being assessed for the first time, he added, and will be stabilized before any additional operations are performed.

“These people have been very welcoming with open arms. They have beliefs like ours, they believe what we believe," said Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey. 

A court hearing scheduled for Tuesday regarding whether feeding and breathing tubes can be inserted into Jahi may be canceled since she has already been transferred to another facility, Dolan said. The legal issue that remains outstanding is whether the family’s rights to make decisions about the girl's care were violated.

The family is focused on Jahi and her survival, Sealey said, adding that a lawsuit is not out of the question.

The Alameda County coroner’s office issued a death certificate Friday, listing Dec. 12 as Jahi’s date of death, although an official cause was not listed pending an autopsy.

But Sealey said at the news conference Monday that an autopsy will not be performed on Jahi because “she’s living right now."

Sealey said his niece looks peaceful, like she’s sleeping, and he believes he saw her smile as she was leaving Children’s Hospital Oakland.

“It’s God’s will. But we’re not going to play God, we’re not going to let Children’s Hospital play God and pull the plug. If her heart stops beating, and if it stops beating while she’s on the respirator, we can accept that. She’s done fighting, and she can go home,” Sealey said.

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Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer

Samantha.Schaefer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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