3 Years After Jahi McMath Was Declared Dead, Family Still Fights to Have Her Death Certificate Overturned

A recent photo of Jahi McMath is shown on a video screen next to her uncle Timothy Whisenton at a news conference in San Francisco on Dec. 23, 2015. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
A recent photo of Jahi McMath is shown on a video screen next to her uncle Timothy Whisenton at a news conference in San Francisco on Dec. 23, 2015. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

It has been more than three years since Jahi McMath, a California teenager, was declared dead after going into cardiac arrest following what was meant to be a routine surgery to remove her tonsils and help her sleep apnea. However, a Northern California judge is expected to determine soon whether or not to revoke her death certificate and essentially declare her “alive” again.


According to the Associated Press, court documents were filed last month to support the family’s lawsuit to have Jahi’s death certificate revoked. Retired neurologist Alan Shewmon said that videos recorded by Jahi’s family 2014-2016 show that the teen is still alive.

Shewmon, the newswire notes, has been a longtime critic of how brain death is defined and has filed similar court documents in support of Jahi’s family to overturn the death certificate. Jahi’s family has long insisted that the teen, who was declared dead at age 13 in December 2013, was still alive, routinely posting updates about her and showing video clips of her twitching her fingers and toes.

As AP notes, several doctors, including two hired by an Alameda County court, have noted that brain-dead patients can still move or twitch sightly.

Jahi’s mother, however, believes that her daughter has severe brain damage but is still alive. Latasha Spears Winkfield said that her Christian belief compels her to help keep Jahi on life support.

On the other side, lawyers for the California hospital where Jahi was originally treated say that the family’s lawyers have declined to give them the most recent video clips that Shewmon said he observed so that the hospital lawyers could independently analyze the footage.


Hospital lawyer Jennifer Still emphasized in a July 6 court filing that “body movements could be easily manipulated,” adding that Jahi was “typically covered up with blankets” in videos that have been previously publicized, making it impossible to know if there was something going on under the blankets to make the body move.

“Often the camera only shows a convenient angle, such as a close up of her foot or hand,” Still wrote.


Still told AP Monday that the family has also not subjected the teen to tests that are accepted by the American Medical Association to determine whether someone is brain-dead.

Jahi is currently in New Jersey, where her family moved her, because of state law that forbids doctors from taking brain-dead patients from ventilators if families have religious objections. New Jersey Medicaid has since picked up some of the cost of Jahi’s care, although the exact amount has not been disclosed.


A judge is expected to rule on the case in the next two months to determine whether the lawsuit will be allowed to go forward, AP notes.

Read more at the Associated Press.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi



This is such a tragedy. I believe in God and Christian values too; but sometimes we have to separate religion from practicality. This girl is dead-and has been since that *&^%#%* dentist mutilated her. Keeping her on ventilators is not doind her any good & it’s only feeding her mother’s extreme state of denial. God knows I would hate to be in her shoes. But, let her go & make everyone involved pay through their noses—and forfeit their licensure for what they’ve done.