Health

Mother Of Brain-Dead Teen Says Oakland Hospital Is Starving Her Daughter

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

The mother of 13-year-old Jahi McMath claims the hospital is starving her brain-dead daughter as the family fights to have her body released to a long-term care facility.

Nailah Winkfield’s daughter was alert and talking after she had tonsil surgery to relieve her sleep apnea on Dec. 9.

Soon after, she began bleeding profusely and went into cardiac arrest. Days later, doctors said she was brain dead. She’s been on a ventilator since Dec. 10.

Her family has been struggling to keep her on life support and says the 8th grader responds to the sounds of her parents’ voices. The hospital contends that Jahi has no chance of recovering consciousness.

In order to transported to a long-term health facility, she requires two more surgeries to install a feeding tube and a breathing tube, but the Children's Hospital in Oakland, Calif., says they would be operating on a corpse.

"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," Winkfield told ABC’s "Good Morning America."

"I tell her every day, 'Jahi, you losin' weight girl, but you still look good.' 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,” she said.

The family says several area facilities will take Jahi, but none will take her without the two procedures.

"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.

The hospital says it will not permit an outside doctor to fit Jahi’s breathing and feeding tube.

Straus said the family is required to provide a detailed plan outlining how Jahi would be moved and written permission from the coroner before her body can be released. The family has not provided either.

"No facility has stated, unconditionally or otherwise, that it is prepared to immediately accept Jahi's body," he wrote.

Straus opposed the family’s request for an emergency order to keep Jahi on a ventilator indefinitely.

"The Superior Court correctly concluded, after three days of hearings and based on uncontroverted evidence, that Ms. McMath is, sadly, deceased," he stated in court papers. "Turning off a ventilator that assists in delivery of oxygen of a dead person causes no irreparable harm — regardless of the parental or religious beliefs of the decedent's family."

Sources: New York Daily News, USA Today