Battle to Keep 13-Year-Old Girl on Life Support Goes to Court

By Lisa Fernandez and Kim Tere
|  Friday, Dec 20, 2013  |  Updated 8:31 PM EDT
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A judge has ordered an Oakland hospital to keep a girl declared brain dead following tonsil surgery on life support. Kimberly Tere reports.

A judge has ordered an Oakland hospital to keep a girl declared brain dead following tonsil surgery on life support. Kimberly Tere reports.

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Family of Teen Left Brain Dead to Seek Injunction

The attorney for the family of a 13-year-old girl who has been declared brain dead after suffering complications from a routine tonsil-removal surgery said he will seek an injunction on Friday that would prevent her from being taken off life-support. Cheryl Hurd reports.

''Urgent'' Request to Keep 8th Grader Alive After Tonsillectomy

A lawyer for a family whose 13-year-old was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy to cure her sleep apnea filed an ''urgent'' request with the courts on Tuesday, the same day hospital employees planned to take the girl off life support. Christie Smith reports.
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The battle to keep a 13-year-old who was declared brain dead after suffering complications from a tonsillectomy headed to court on Friday, with the girl's family asking a judge to keep her on life support until at least until after Christmas.

UPDATE: Judge Orders Oakland Hospital to Keep Jahi McMath on Life Support

The civil hearing is scheduled to be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Alameda County Courthouse.

In court papers, the family of Jahi McMath is hoping that Children's Hospital in Oakland will keep the 8th grader on life support, release her medical records and give her a feeding tube. Chris Dolan, the family's attorney, also is asking the court to give the family 48-hour notice should doctors decide to take her off of life-support. He filed the court papers on Friday at probate court in Berkeley.

While some of the doctors and nurses have been "very compassionate," the court request says that other staff members at the hospital have treated the family "quite coldly," where they have been told that "if the ventilator is removed, Jahi will die within a minute or two."

MORE: "Urgent" Request to Keep 8th Grader Jahi McMath on Life Support After Tonsillectomy

Specifically, Jahi's mother, Latasha "Nailah" Winkfield singled out Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics, in her court request seeking a temporary restraining order against the hospital. In Winkfield's telling of it,  Durand said he would not authorize a feeding tube because Jahi is "dead, dead, dead." 

"He was condescending and almost angry as if I were stupid," she wrote. "I am not stupid. I know my daughter and she is still here."

For its part, Children's Hospital has been limited in what doctors can say regarding the escalating battle because of state and federal privacy laws.

Late Thursday, Durand released a statement that read, in part: "We want the public to know that the family has not permitted us to discuss the medical situation. We are unable -- without the family’s permission--to talk about the medical procedure, background or any of the details that are a part of this tragedy. Details that would provide transparency, openness and provide answers to the public about this situation."

His statement further added that he would love to be able to correct "misperceptions" but hasn't been able to.

Dolan said Jahi's mother doesn't want to give such authorization because she doesn't want the hospital talking about Jahi's condition to the media before she is told anything.

Despite two EEG tests earlier this week that proved negative, Jahi's family believes the 8th grader can still recover from a Dec. 9 tonsillectomy that led to severe complications. Three days later, she was declared brain dead.

In the court restraining order request, a few new details about Jahi's hospital stay from her family's perspective were disclosed.

Originally, the family was told that Jahi's tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy would be an "in and out procedure."

Sometime after the seemingly uneventful surgery, Jahi was taken to the ICU and Winkfield said she was told the staff had to fix her ICU. About 45 minutes later, Jahi was brought back to her room and was sitting in bed, bleeding from her mouth.

"It was normal," Winkfield said the nursing staff told her.

Winkfield then said she asked for a doctor. Instead, she said she was given a bigger container for Jahi to bleed into, and later, a suction device to suction out the "increasing volume of blood," the court request states.

Jahi's grandmother, Sandra Chatman, who is a nurse elsewhere, made "multiple" requests for a doctor. But Jahi ended up suffering from a heart attack "and fell into a comatose state," the papers state.

Though she was declared "brain dead," her heart beats and her kidneys function, the church-going family states, and "she is not gone from her body."

In an impassioned written plea to the court, Winkfield wrote: "She is alive. I believe in God and that He can heal all. God created Jahi. He can save her. Help me please."

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