The right to life battle over a clinically brain dead California teenager has reached new heights as the girl’s family has accused the hospital she’s staying in of intentionally starving her. Jahi McMath, 13, went into cardiac arrest last month after tonsil surgery to treat sleep apnea and was pronounced brain dead three days later. Doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland say she will never recover and want to remove the tubes keeping her alive, but the family is fighting them because they believe she will make a full recovery.
“To watch my daughter just sit there and not have food … I’m just so happy that she is kind of a thick girl so she still looks good,” said McMath’s mother, Nailah Winkfield. “I just think it’s inhumane to not feed my child, to not refer to her by her name, and stop us in our tracks.”
A judge ordered the hospital to keep the ventilator in until at least next Tuesday so they could file a petition in state appellate court. However, the judge has also denied the family’s request to have the hospital perform a tracheotomy and insert a feeding tube in order to have her transported to another hospital. The hospital refuses to do this because they think it’s unethical to perform surgery on a dead body.
“Performing medical procedures on the body of a deceased human being is simply not something Children’s Hospital can do or ask its staff to assist in doing,” said hospital attorney Douglas Straus.
Winkfield believes her daughter is not dead because she obtained statements from a pediatrician which said her daughter responded to her grandmother’s voice with squirming movements. However, a spokesman for the hospital said that any signs of life McMath shows is an involuntary muscle reflex.
“This is one of the most tragic situations imaginable,” said spokesman Sam Singer. “A family has lost their young daughter. But unfortunately, Jahi is deceased. No amount of hope, prayer or medical procedures will bring her back.”
The family said in court filings that a facility in Medford, N.Y. has agreed to take the girl and provide 24-hour medical care. They have already arranged transport via a private jet for $27,950 and have raised almost all of the money for this through a fundraising website.