Family Wants Brain-Dead Teen Alive for Christmas

Jahi McMath's lawyer vows appeal if judge orders her removed from machine today

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Dec 24, 2013 8:09 AM CST

(Newser) – An Oakland family whose 13-year-old daughter has been declared brain dead after experiencing complications following a tonsillectomy is hoping to celebrate Christmas with her at Children's Hospital after a judge ordered hospital officials to keep her connected to a breathing machine. As her family sat stone-faced in the front row of the courtroom, an Alameda County judge yesterday called for Jahi McMath to be independently examined by Paul Graham Fisher, the chief of child neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine; that exam happened yesterday and may continue into today. The judge also ordered the hospital to keep Jahi on a ventilator until Dec. 30, or until further order from the court.

Earlier yesterday, Christopher Dolan, the family's attorney, vowed to keep Jahi hooked to the ventilator through Christmas and said he would file an appeal if the judge orders her removed from the machine today. A medical ethics expert not involved in Jahi's case tells the AP that once brain death has been declared, a hospital is under no obligation to keep a patient on a ventilator. Often families confuse brain death with a coma or a permanent vegetative state, he says: "A coma is like a television that has a picture with a lot of interference. There's brain activity, but something's not right. A permanent vegetative state is when the screen is all snow. Brain death is when the set is unplugged. There is nothing on the screen." Keeping Jahi on a ventilator is also likely to cost thousands of dollars a day, and, because she has been declared brain dead, is unlikely to be covered by health insurance.

This undated file photo provided by the McMath family and Omari Sealey shows Jahi McMath.   (Uncredited)
In this Dec. 20, 2013 file photo, Nailah Winkfield, mother of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, cries before a courtroom hearing regarding McMath, in Oakland, Calif.   (Ben Margot)
Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath, attends a court hearing to discuss the treatment of her daughter in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.   (Kristopher Skinner)
Makhai McMath, 8, is surrounded by people praying for her big sister Jahi McMath just outside Children's Hospital Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.   (SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD)
Christopher Dolan, attorney for Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath, speaks during a court hearing to discuss the treatment of her daughter in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.   (Kristopher Skinner)
Dr. David Durand, Chief of Pediatrics for Children's Hospital Oakland, addresses the media after a hearing regarding the treatment of Jahi McMath in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.   (Kristopher Skinner)
Brian Franklin, left, attorney for Children's Hospital Oakland, and Christopher Dolan, attorney for Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath, speaks during a court hearing to discuss the treatment of Winkfield's...   (Kristopher Skinner)
Quinton Reynolds, of Emeryville, wears a purple cape as he holds his daughter Qniyah Reynolds, 4, as he gathers with others outside of Children's Hospital Oakland in support of Jahi McMath.   (Susan Tripp Pollard)
Makhai McMath, 8, blows a bubble with her gum as she marches in support of her 13-year-old sister Jahi McMath in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.   (SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD)
Many march in support of Jahi McMath near Children's Hospital Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.   (SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD)
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