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Neurologist to examine Oakland girl brain-dead after tonsillectomy

An Alameda County judge has ordered a pediatric neurologist from Stanford to evaluate an Oakland girl declared brain-dead after a tonsillectomy and to provide an independent assessment of her condition.

Jahi McMath became brain-dead soon after a routine procedure to remove her tonsils at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland on Dec. 9. After going into cardiac arrest, the flow of oxygen to her brain was cut off and a CT scan showed two-thirds of the girl's brain had swollen. She was declared brain-dead after three tests showed there was no "cerebral activity," according to court records.

The supervising doctor said in a court declaration that "there is absolutely no medical possibility" that Jahi's condition is reversible, "or that she will someday recover from death."

Family members, though, say they want their own independent assessment and have accused the hospital of being callous in pushing to take Jahi off a ventilator, despite their wishes to keep her on life support. The back and forth eventually prompted the family to get a court order keeping Jahi on a ventilator long enough to get a second medical opinion.

On Monday, a judge appointed Paul Graham Fisher, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Stanford School of Medicine, to determine whether the girl is legally dead, NBC Bay Area reported. His evaluation could take place as soon as Monday afternoon.

Jahi's family is also asking the judge for permission to get a third opinion, KRON4-TV reported.

Family and supporters, meanwhile, marched outside the hospital Monday, holding signs and shouting slogans to "keep Jahi alive."

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom Monday, Jahi's mother, Latasha "Naila" Winkfield, said the uncertainty surrounding her daughter's fate was mentally exhausting.

"I feel like my daughter is on death row because I never know when they’re going to pull the plug," she said. "I know my daughter wants to live; she really enjoyed life."

David Durand, chief of pediatrics at the hospital, said in a statement that "we have the deepest sympathy for Jahi's mother, who wishes her daughter was alive."

But, he added, "the ventilator cannot reverse the brain death that has occurred and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life."

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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