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N.Y. Facility Might Accept Brain Dead California Girl

13-Year-Old Jahi McMath Suffered Complications After Tonsillectomy
Jahi McMath (credit: family photo/CBS San Francisco)

Jahi McMath (credit: family photo/CBS San Francisco)

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OAKLAND, Calif. (CBSNewYorkAP) — A New York facility might accept a 13-year-old California girl who has been declared brain dead after undergoing a tonsillectomy.

The family of Jahi McMath would not provide the facility’s name in a statement Saturday, saying they don’t want media attention to affect her chance of being accepted there.

The family’s attorney, Chris Dolan, said the facility is the last hope after two facilities in California backed out.

Timing is short for the family. A judge ruled that Children’s Hospital Oakland may remove Jahi from life support at 5 p.m. Monday unless an appeal is filed.

Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa said the hospital has not heard from any facility to discuss how it can accommodate “a deceased body on a ventilator.”

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery at Children’s Hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest. Doctors at Children’s Hospital concluded the girl was brain dead on Dec. 12 and wanted to remove her from life support. The family said they believe she is still alive.

Before Jahi can be transferred, she must undergo two more medical procedures — the insertion of a breathing tube and a feeding tube, both of which would be necessary for her long-term care but which the nursing home is not equipped to perform.

The hospital has refused to perform the procedures.

“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” David Durand, its chief of pediatrics, said in a statement Thursday.

Douglas Straus, a lawyer for the hospital, said in a letter made public Friday that before the hospital would comply with the family’s request to move Jahi, it would need to speak directly with officials at any nursing home to make sure they understand her condition, “including the fact that Jahi is brain dead” — and to discuss needed preparations, including transportation.

“Children’s Hospital will of course continue to do everything legally and ethically permissible to support the family of Jahi McMath. In that regard, Children’s will allow a lawful transfer of Jahi’s body in its current state to another location if the family can arrange such a transfer and Children’s can legally do so,” Straus wrote in the letter.

He also said the Alameda County coroner needed to sign off on the move “since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead.”

The letter was sent to Dolan after Dolan said he was preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the hospital to outfit Jahi with breathing and feeding tubes. He said the hospital’s refusal to cooperate violated her family’s religious, due process rights and privacy rights.

In fulfillment of the hospital’s request, Dolan said he had held a three-way conference call Friday with Straus and the director of the nursing home.

Dolan also told the Associated Press on Friday that he had already obtained signed consent from the coroner for Jahi’s transfer.

The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau said it had no comment.

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