OAKLAND, Calif. — The mother of a teenage girl who was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy and other throat and nasal procedures is claiming that hospital officials are starving her daughter and are being insensitive in referring to her only as “the body.”
“I hate it that they refer to her as just ‘the body’ or ‘the deceased’; that is my child that they’re talking about,” Latasha Winkfield told ABC News on Tuesday. “They don’t even use her name.”
“To watch my daughter just sit there and not have food … I’m just so happy that she is kind of a thick girl so she still looks good,” she stated. “I tell her every day, ‘Jahi, you losin’ weight, girl, but you still look good.’ I just think it’s inhumane to not feed my child, to not refer to her by her name, and stop us in our tracks.”
As previously reported, Winkfield’s 13-year-old daughter Jahi McMath underwent the operation at Children’s Hospital and Research Center last month, as doctors had recommended the operation to help alleviate her sleep apnea, irregular weight gain and urination issues.
But her uncle, Omari Sealey, said that the girl was apprehensive even before going under the knife.
“The worst thing about all of this is that Jahi told my sister, ‘I don’t want to get this surgery; something bad is going to happen. I’m not going to wake up,’” he told CNN.
McMath reportedly asked for a Popsicle following the procedure, advising that her throat hurt. But soon after, the girl’s family knew that something was terribly wrong.
“When she got moved to ICU, there was a 30-minute wait until any family member could go see her,” her grandmother, Sandy Chapman, told reporters. “Upon entry, they saw that there was way too much blood.”
“She had to have four blood transfusions. She had two liters of blood pumped out of her lungs, not including what was in her stomach,” she continued. “There was an enormous amount of blood, and we kept asking, ‘Is this normal?’ Some nurses said, ‘I don’t know,’ and some said, ‘Yes.’ There was a lot of uncertainty and a lack of urgency.”
When McMath’s oxygen levels then began to fall dangerously low, Chapman called for help. The girl later went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. Days later, doctors pronounced her legally dead and sought to take her off life support.
McMath’s family has been fighting the matter in court ever since. Following a second evaluation by Dr. Paul Graham Fisher, who testified before the court last Tuesday that McMath meets the medical criteria for brain death, Judge Evelio Grillo ruled that the hospital could take her off life support this week.
However, McMath’s family sought to obtain an extension in court this Monday as they are working to secure a nursing home that will take the girl long-term. The family says that hospital officials are being difficult as before the girl may be transferred to the facility, she needs to have a breathing and feeding tube inserted. But Children’s Hospital and Research Center has refused to perform the procedure.
“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” Chief of Pediatrics, David Durand, wrote in a statement last Thursday.
But spokesperson Sam Singer told reporters that the hospital will cooperate if the family can find an outside physician to insert the tubes. Attorney Christopher Dolan states that it is not that simple.
“We got a letter back that said you can’t bring anybody in,” Dolan told NBC Bay Area. “So this is a constantly changing game for these folks, and it’s not a game for Jahi.”
On Monday, Judge Grillo issued a one-week extension to the family an hour before she was to be removed from life support. Efforts are underway in the meantime to beat the clock as some believe that the girl is not truly dead.
“Jahi McMath has been labeled a ‘deceased’ person. Yet she retains all the functional attributes of a living person, despite her brain injury,” stated the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network in a news release. “This includes a beating heart, circulation and respiration, the ability to metabolize nutrition and more. Jahi is a living human being.”
The organization is believed to be assisting the family with possibly transferring McMath to New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, New York.
“We do encourage every citizen to take the time to educate themselves more clearly on the issues of what brain death is and what it is not,” center founder Allyson Scerri wrote on Facebook this week. “This child has been defined as a deceased person, yet she has all the functional attributes of a living person despite her brain injury.”
The California Department of Health states that it has now opened an investigation into Children’s Hospital and Research Center in regard to the serious complications that caused McMath to suffer cardiac arrest and brain death.