Brain-dead girl Jahi McMath released from California hospital
By Ed Payne. Catherine E. Shoichet and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 2:03 AM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
Brain dead girl's body moved
- Jahi McMath is on a ventilator and has been declared brain-dead by doctors
- Her family has moved her to a new facility, but won't say where
- Attorney: "We're very relieved that she got safely to where she needed to be"
- McMath is now receiving antibiotics and nutritional support, he says
(CNN) -- Jahi McMath is no longer inside the hospital where doctors declared her brain-dead after tonsil surgery last month.
But family members won't
reveal where they took the 13-year-old after Children's Hospital &
Research Center Oakland released her Sunday night.
"We're very relieved that
she got safely to where she needed to be, because we were all very
afraid, given the fragile condition as she wasted away at Children's,
that she might not make it," attorney Chris Dolan told reporters Monday.
The move ends one chapter
of a weeks-long struggle between the hospital, which sought to remove
Jahi from a ventilator after doctors and a judge concluded she was
brain-dead, and her relatives, who fought in court to keep her on the
ventilator and contended she showed signs of life.
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"As a family, we are
definitely relieved that she's no longer at Children's Hospital, but
we're all emotionally drained," Omari Sealey, the girl's uncle, told
CNN's Piers Morgan Live on Monday night. "This has been an incredible
roller-coaster ride of emotions."
He said so long as his niece's heart is beating, Jahi is alive.
"She's moving a lot more.
She responds to audio and touch, and more compelling evidence is the
fact that she can move her head and neck," Sealey said.
The hospital released
Jahi on Sunday to the Alameda County coroner, who then released her to
her mother's custody, said Dr. David Durand, the hospital's chief of
pediatrics. The hospital had previously said it needed the coroner's
consent for the transfer because Jahi was legally dead.
Jahi -- who was declared
brain-dead December 12 after post-surgery complications that her family
says included severe bleeding and cardiac arrest -- was moved from the
hospital Sunday accompanied by a critical-care team. She was attached to
a ventilator, but with no feeding tube in place.
On Monday, Dolan said Jahi was being given antibiotics to fight infections and nutritional support.
"They're giving her everything that a person who would have a chance to live would be getting," he said.
He declined to provide details about the type of facility, citing privacy and security concerns.
"She's where she's going to be for a while," he said. "She needs to be medically stabilized, medically treated."
On Sunday, the president of a rehabilitation center in New York told CNN that the facility would gladly accept Jahi. But Dolan said the family has no plans to give more details about her location.
"We've had people make
threats from around the country. It's sad that people act that way,"
Dolan said. "So for Jahi's safety and those around her, we will not be
saying where she went or where she is."
At least five different
facilities that originally offered to care for Jahi fell through, he
said. But ultimately, the family chose from a number of offers.
"There were other
facilities that still had their hand extended," he said. "But we took
the first one that we knew would pull us in."
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'Brain dead' case raises ethical issues
Jahi's case drew
national attention and fueled debate as a fierce court battle unfolded
between devastated family members fighting to keep her on a ventilator
and doctors arguing she'd already died.
Family members say the
eighth-grader was alert and talking after doctors removed her tonsils,
adenoids and extra sinus tissue in a surgery at the Oakland hospital on
Doctors had recommended
the surgery to treat pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, a condition
which made her stop breathing in her sleep and caused other medical
Before the surgery, Jahi
said she was worried that she would never wake up, according to her
uncle. She seemed fine after the surgery, but asked for a Popsicle
because her throat hurt.
Not long afterward,
something went terribly wrong. In an intensive care unit, the girl began
bleeding profusely, the family said.
According to family members, Jahi went into cardiac arrest. Days later, she was declared brain-dead.
Hospital officials have said privacy laws prevent them from discussing details of the case.
The court battle and the medical debate
The family and the
hospital disagreed over whether to disconnect her from a ventilator, and
the issue wound up in Alameda Superior Court.
In court documents and
public comments, the hospital maintained that there's no doubt that
McMath is brain-dead, describing the condition as irreversible.
"No amount of prayer, no
amount of hope, no amount of any type of medical procedure will bring
her back," Children's Hospital Oakland spokesman Sam Singer said last
month. "The medical situation here in this case is that Jahi McMath died
several weeks ago."
A judge on December 23
appointed Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology at Stanford
Children's Hospital, to evaluate Jahi.
Fisher concluded the
next day that she met the criteria for brain death. According to a court
filing, Fisher found that the girl's pupils were fully dilated and
unresponsive to light and that she did not respond to a variety of
His report also says
Jahi showed no sign of breathing on her own when a ventilator was
removed: "Patient failed apnea test." The report says her heart was
beating only because of the mechanical ventilator.
In addition, an imaging test showed no blood flow to Jahi's brain, while another showed no sign of electrical activity.
"Overall, unfortunate circumstances in 13-year-old with known,
irreversible brain injury and now complete absence of cerebral function
and complete absence of brainstem function, child meets all criteria for
brain death, by professional societies and state of California."
After seeing Fisher's
report, Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo concluded on December
24 that Jahi was brain dead. But Grillo twice ruled that the hospital
had to hold off on disconnecting Jahi from life support, ultimately
giving the family and the facility until January 7 to come to a
The Alameda County
coroner issued a death certificate for Jahi on Friday, listing December
12 as the date of death. The certificate still needed to be accepted by
the health department to become official.
Medical ethicists, meanwhile, say the high-profile case fuels a misperception: that "brain death" is somehow not as final as cardiac death, even though, by definition, it is.
The case is "giving the impression that dead people can come back to
life," Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU
Langone Medical Center, told CNN last month.
Family members say they've seen reason for hope
Jahi's family members maintain that they're hoping for a miracle.
Her mother told CNN last
month that she'd seen improvements, including indications from a
hospital monitor that she said suggest her daughter was trying to
breathe on her own.
The girl's uncle, Sealey, told reporters last week that a pediatrician has seen Jahi and has sworn she is not dead.
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When asked about the
girl's possible movement, Singer, the hospital spokesman, said he would
not comment directly on any claims the family makes, citing privacy
laws. However, Singer said it is "quite common" for the muscles of brain
dead patients to move, stressing it's "not a sign of life."
So far the family has raised more than $50,000 on GoFundMe.com to move her. According to the site, more than 1,300 people have donated money in 10 days.
"We're very grateful,
very proud," said Sealey. "We want to thank everyone that supported us,
everyone that stood in our corner, everyone that prayed for us, everyone
that helped donate to make this possible. Without you guys, none of
this would be possible."
He didn't rule out the
possibility that the family could eventually file a lawsuit against the
hospital. But he dismissed concerns that details about what happened
during and after Jahi's surgery could be lost if she remains on a
"That's pretty much
saying that she's evidence and she's a body, and we don't look at it
that way," Sealey said. "We're not worried about accountability. We're
worried about survival."
In releasing Jahi, the
hospital said: "Our hearts go out to the family as they grieve for this
sad situation and we wish them closure and peace."