OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A judge Monday appointed an outside medical expert who will conduct an independent evaluation of a 13-year-old Oakland girl who has been on life support at Children’s Hospital Oakland since she suffered complications after a tonsillectomy earlier this month.
Dr. Paul Fisher, the head of pediatric neurology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, will examine Jahi McMath, an eighth-grade student at the E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts in Oakland, at about 3 p.m., Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said at a brief hearing Monday morning.
Christopher Dolan, the attorney for Jahi’s family, and attorneys for Children’s Hospital both agreed to have Dr. Fisher examine Jahi.
But Dolan said Jahi’s family also wants to have Jahi examined by another physician, Dr. Paul Byrne, a neonatologist and pediatrician based in Ohio. Grillo said he will rule on that request later Monday.
Jahi went to Children’s Hospital on Dec. 9 to have her tonsils removed to resolve a sleep apnea problem, according to her family.
An attorney for the hospital, Douglas Strauss, said in a court filing that Jahi “suffered serious complications” after the procedures and was declared brain dead on Dec. 12. She has been on life support since then.
Dr. David Durand, the chief of the hospital’s pediatrics unit, said Monday that the surgery was “complicated” and included three different procedures.
Children’s Hospital was seeking to take Jahi off of life support but her family is trying to keep her alive as long as possible.
Dolan, the family’s attorney, said the ongoing court proceedings, which began on Friday and will continue at least until Tuesday, when Dr. Fisher’s report will be presented, mean that “Jahi will live at least through Christmas.”
Dolan said that even if Fisher declares that he agrees that Jahi is brain dead and Grillo rules that she can be taken off life support, he would then file an appeal to a higher court that would keep her alive until another hearing after Christmas.
Jahi’s family “is desperate to keep her alive and to save her,” Dolan said.
He said that even if doctors continue to rule that Jahi is brain dead, her family members would still like to move her to a sub-acute care facility where efforts to keep her alive could continue.
“The family believes that she is alive and there have been many stories of people who have spontaneously recovered from brain death,” Dolan said.
Family members and supporters of Jahi rallied outside Children’s Hospital Oakland Monday morning. Participants were asked to wear purple, Jahi’s favorite color.
Durand said Dr. Fisher will conduct an electroencephalogram that will test the electrical activity of Jahi’s brain as well as a scan that will examine the blood flow to her brain.
The hospital released a statement Monday morning, saying, “We are sorry that Jahi McMath suffered tragic complications from her complex surgery. Our hearts go out to the grieving family and community about this sad situation.”
“We look forward to the independent expert’s evaluation of the patient,” the statement continued, noting that Fisher is a “known expert on brain death.”
“We have the deepest sympathy for Jahi’s mother, who wishes her daughter was alive; but the ventilator cannot reverse brain death that has occurred and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life,” hospital officials said.
“Our mission is to heal children and our hospital community grieves along with this family during this difficult time,” the statement read.
The state Department of Public Health is also investigating the case.
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