Family of Jahi McMath, the Teen Declared Brain-Dead, ‘Overjoyed’ That Jury Will Decide if She Is Still Alive

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 Images)

The family of Jahi McMath, the teen who was declared brain-dead after a tonsillectomy more than three years ago but who they insist is still alive, has finally gotten a step closer to having the case resolved via the legal system.

The Associated Press reports that a California judge ruled this week that Jahi, now 17, may technically still be alive, which would allow a lawsuit against the California hospital that declared her brain-dead to move forward.


As The Root reported in July, the family filed court documents in June in support of its lawsuit to have Jahi’s death certificate revoked.

Judge Stephen Pulido ruled Tuesday that it’s up to a jury to determine whether Jahi is alive, which would increase the damages jurors could award if they determine that doctors at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif., botched a routine operation in December 2013 to remove the then-13-year-old’s tonsils to alleviate sleep apnea (in California, noneconomic damages are capped at $250,000).

According to AP, doctors say that Jahi had irreversible brain damage from a lack of oxygen and suffered cardiac arrest, and a coroner signed a death certificate the following month. Her family has been fighting that declaration and believes her to still be alive, with the support of a prominent neurologist as well as evidence such as twitching limb movements.

Jahi is currently connected to a ventilator and receives medical care in New Jersey, the only state that “accommodates religions that don’t recognize brain death,” according to AP.


Chris Dolan, who represents the family in a federal lawsuit seeking to rescind Jahi’s death certificate, said that the family was “overjoyed” with the judge’s ruling.

Although her mother, Latasha Spears Winkfield, acknowledges that the girl’s brain is severely and irreparably damaged, Winkfield said that her daughter is still alive, and her Christian beliefs compel her fight to keep her daughter on life support.


The family would like to move the teen back to California, where the state would have to pay for her care, if the jury comes back in their favor.

Read more at Atlanta Black Star.

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Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.