The family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who has been on life support since tonsillectomy surgery earlier this month, spent Christmas next to her in the hospital. They set up a Christmas tree in her room with presents for her and her siblings, ABC 7 reports.
On Tuesday, McMath’s family got the news that the girl has been declared brain-dead after an independent doctor confirmed what physicians at Children’s Hospital Oakland suspected. The family was hoping that the signs that McMath had shown in recent weeks meant she was trying to take breaths on her own.
A judge had ruled that under acceptable medical standards, following an evaluation from an independent neurologist that McMath is in fact, brain-dead, the hospital could take her off life support on Dec. 30.
The news crushed the family’s hopes that McMath’s situation would take a turn for the better. Omari Sealey, McMath’s uncle, told ABC 7 that the family will wait until Thursday to discuss whether to appeal a judge’s decision allowing the hospital to remove his niece from life support.
Dr. Paul Graham Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology and director of the Center for Brain and Behavior at Stanford, examined the severity of McMath’s brain damage. Fisher said that his test results show that McMath has no response to facial pain, no gag reflexes, no reflexes in her arms or legs and a complete absence of brain stem and cerebral function, ABC 7 reports.
The family has asked that the hospital provide all of McMath’s medical records and expressed concerns about patient and family rights.
“What this case represents legally is that parents can say no when a hospital says, ‘We’re pulling the plug,’ ” Chris Dolan, the family’s attorney, told ABC 7.
“Different people have different values as to what is death. Is it when the heart stops beating? When the brain isn’t sending a signal? And that goes all the way back to people who have those same questions at the beginning of life. Before a child can speak in the womb, is it alive or not?” said Dolan.