Jahi McMath: Judge Orders Hospital To Keep Teen On Life Support
By Brian Shields and Mario Sevilla
Fri Dec 20th, 2013 10:54am America/Los_Angeles
BERKELEY (KRON) — A judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order preventing Oakland’s Children’s Hospital from removing 13-year old Jahi McMath from life support.
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo came as both sides in the case agreed to get together and chose a neurologist to further examine 13-year-old Jahi McMath and determine her condition. Another hearing was set for Monday.
“We’re filing papers with the judge to ask for a temporary restraining order to prevent them from removing her from life support, to order them to allow an outside doctor to come in and conduct an examination, to order them to produce the medical records, to give her a feeding tube, and to start try to keep her alive instead of kill her,” lawyer Christopher Dolan told KRON 4′s Will Tran moments before entering the courthouse.
The Oakland girl’s family has been in a contentious battle with the hospital to keep her on life support in order to allow an outside medical expert to evaluate her condition.
The family said they were told during meeting Thursday that seeking a second opinion was an unusual request for a dead person.
Sealy said that the meeting with hospital officials “was not what we expected at all.”
Jahi remains on life support after she went into cardiac arrest while recovering from surgery to have her tonsils removed.
Hospital officials say they would love to tell their side of the story but the family won’t waive confidentiality laws and allow them to do so.
“What this family has said is you explain to us first how our daughter wound up here before you go and try to tell it to the papers,” Dolan added. “And they haven’t done that. I welcome the opportunity to sit down in a room with anybody from that hospital, and everybody’s in that same room so there’s no back and forth. You said, he said, she said. And have a frank discussion about what’s happened here.”
Even without a court order, the family is asking the hospital to show compassion over the holidays.
“If they’re good people of conscience who care about children, they won’t barge their way into that room and pull out a plug,” Dolan said. “I think if they do that, it’s absolutely abhorrent.”
Hospitals do a barrage of sophisticated tests to determine brain death, said Dr. Cristobal Barrios, an associate professor and a trauma and critical care surgeon at the University of California, Irvine. He is not involved in Jahi’s care and spoke about general hospital protocols.
The tests include touching a patient’s cornea to elicit a blink, moving a breathing tube to stimulate a gag reflex, tickling the back of the throat to bring on a cough, and applying pressure or pain.
If the patient fails to respond to all of those tests, doctors remove the breathing tube for a few minutes. If there is any brain activity, the patient should begin breathing within a few minutes, he said.
In some cases, doctors will also draw a blood sample, add radioactive tags and re-inject it into the body to track where it flows. If the blood doesn’t flow to the brain, Barrios said, there is no brain activity.
Generally, two teams of specialists must run the tests and determine independently that the patient is brain dead, he said. At UC Irvine, those evaluations must take place 12 hours apart if the patient is a child.
Barrios said it’s not unusual for family members to resist a diagnosis of brain death.
While the hospital is not obligated to keep life support going after that diagnosis, Barrios has left brain dead patients hooked up for up to five days while family members move toward acceptance, he said.
“I understand why sometimes for families it’s devastating and confusing,” he said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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