Jahi McMath, the Oakland, Calif., teenager whose brain death made national news after her family refused to accept the ruling and fought to keep her on a ventilator, died June 22, a family attorney said.
Jahi was just 13 when she underwent a routine tonsil surgery in December 2013. After the procedure, she appeared alert and was talking to doctors, but she later suffered extensive hemorrhaging, went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain-dead.
Even though Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland wanted to remove the brain-dead teen from a ventilator, her family insisted that she showed signs of life and wanted to keep her on the breathing device.
After a monthslong legal battle, Jahi’s family ultimately won a court order to keep her on a ventilator and then got permission to transfer her to an undisclosed facility that agreed to treat her.
As the years passed, Jahi’s family shared pictures and updates on their daughter as they continued to fight, this time, to have her death certificate revoked to essentially declare the teen “alive” again. Last fall, a California judge ruled that Jahi might technically still be alive, but added that it would be up to a jury to decide if Jahi was still alive.
But now, the family say, the teen is dead.
“A preliminary Abstract of Death [death certificate] was completed by the hospital physician treating Jahi listing her cause of death as bleeding as a result of hepatic [liver] failure,” family attorney Christopher Dolan said in a statement regarding Jahi’s death, according to CNN.
The teen, who was 17, died at home with her mother, Nailah Winkfield; her stepfather, Marvin Winkfield; and her sister at her side.
Nailah Winkfield said that she is “devastated by the loss of her daughter who had showed tremendous strength and courage.”
Winkfield added that she “forced the world to rethink the issue of brain death” and said she was also grateful for the last four years she’d had with her daughter, even though the teen could not talk.
“My daughter knew I was there and that I loved her; I knew she was there and that she loved me, too,” Winkfield said.
Plans are being made for the teen to be buried in California.
But although Jahi has died, the legal battle has not ended.
Dolan said that he intends to continue his pro bono fight for Jahi “through the federal civil rights case, which was filed in the Northern District of California to have her hastily prepared death certificate reversed, and her date of death established as June 22, 2018.”