After day of finger-pointing, family of Jahi McMath still searching for transfer facility
on December 27, 2013
OAKLAND – A day after announcing the “miracle” that they had found a facility to which to transfer Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl’s family is back at square one. Meanwhile, mutual accusations continue to fly between Children’s Hospital and family attorney Chris Dolan.
Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo has ruled that Children’s Hospital can remove McMath’s ventilator at 5 p.m. Monday. McMath is brain dead after a tonsillectomy on Dec. 9 went awry.
According to Dolan, the Bay Area facility that had been willing to accept McMath backed out because of the refusal of Children’s Hospital to provide gastric and tracheostomy tubes required for transport. Children’s Hospital spokesperson Sam Singer denied this accusation, saying Dolan never provided the details required to legally begin such a process. Dolan and the family never released the name of the accepting facility to the public nor to the hospital.
After the family announced Thursday night they had found a facility, Children’s Hospital released a statement saying such a transfer would violate Judge Grillo’s ruling that McMath is deceased.
“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” David Durand, Chief of Pediatrics, wrote.
On Friday morning, the hospital softened its stance and laid out the requirements for a transfer.
“Children’s will allow a lawful transfer of Jahi’s body in its current state to another location if the family can arrange such a transfer and Children’s can legally do so,” hospital lawyer Archer Norris wrote. The requirements include finding an independent physician to perform the needed operations, arranging proper transportation and verifying the willingness of the receiving facility.
The Alameda County Coroner also granted permission to move McMath, removing a potential legal roadblock in the family’s quest to transfer the teen.
Singer stressed that despite the hospital’s willingness to grant the family’s request, the medical facts of McMath’s case remain the same.
“She isn’t alive,” Singer said. “This becomes at a certain point a very sad thing for the Attorney to perpetuate a myth that she will recover.”
Following a series of back and forth statements to the press, Singer and Dolan got into a prolonged verbal spat in front of the hospital, with Dolan accusing Singer of being a “spin doctor” solely concerned about the hospital’s finances. Singer, in turn, questioned Dolan’s motives.
“You’re misleading the public, you’re misleading the press and you’re misleading your client,” Singer said.
If the family is unable to secure McMath’s transfer, they may return to the courts. Dolan said he plans to file for an extension of the court’s order to keep McMath on a ventilator. He said he will also file a complaint in federal court on the grounds that Children’s Hospital violated the family’s freedom of religion and freedom to “make their own health care decisions.”
“In accordance with their religion, [the family doesn’t] believe she is deceased,” Dolan said. “Their religious perspective is that if your heart stops beating then you’re dead.”
As of Friday evening, Dolan and McMath’s family continued to search for a receiving facility and said they had one promising lead in the Los Angeles area. Still, with Monday’s deadline fast approaching, the family is prepared for another legal battle.
“This is a game of fatigue,” Dolan said. “They’re trying to wear this family down until they give up.”
Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.