Jahi McMath body in ‘very bad shape’ after hospital transfer

The attorney for the family of Jahi McMath, the brain-dead 13-year-old girl at the center of a legal controversy, says her body has deteriorated badly since she was transfered from an Oakland hospital.

Jahi underwent surgery Dec. 9 to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. She was declared brain-dead Dec. 12 after she went into cardiac arrest and suffered extensive brain hemorrhaging.

PHOTOS: The Jahi McMath case

At least three neurologists have confirmed that Jahi was unable to breathe on her own, had no blood flow to her brain and had no sign of electrical activity.


But Jahi’s family members -- who won a court order keeping her on a ventilator, and eventually permission to transfer her to an undisclosed care facility -- have insisted that she is alive as long as her heart is beating.

The family’s attorney, Christopher Dolan, told the San Jose Mercury News, however, that Jahi’s body has deteriorated badly in the weeks since she was declared brain-dead.

“She’s in very bad shape,” he said. “What I can tell you is that those examinations show that her medical condition, separate from the brain issue, is not good.”

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.

Dresser also served on a presidential bioethics council that in 2008 reaffirmed “whole-brain death” as legal death.

Brain cells die without blood flow and autopsies in such cases have shown that the brain liquefies.

After marathon negotiations with a federal magistrate, Jahi’s family members received approval to remove her body, while attached to a ventilator, from Children’s Hospital Oakland on Sunday.

The girl was released first to the Alameda County coroner and then to the family, and is now the responsibility of her mother, who has moved her to a facility that has not been identified because of threats Nolan said he and her family have received.

The courts have so far agreed that Jahi is dead. The coroner on Friday issued a death certificate listing Dec. 12 as the date of death.