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Family may move brain-dead girl to new facility to keep her on life support

Courtesy of McMath family and Omari Sealey

Jahi McMath remains on life support at Children's Hospital Oakland nearly a week after doctors declared her brain dead.

The family of an Oakland girl declared brain dead after suffering complications from a tonsillectomy is working to move Jahi McMath to an alternate care facility that will keep her on life support.

A judge this week ruled Children's Hospital Oakland could remove McMath from the ventilator keeping her body functioning. The family has until 5 p.m. Monday to file an appeal.

Chris Dolan, an attorney for Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, on Thursday said they made progress in finding another care facility.

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"A Bay Area sub-acute care facility has indicated that they can accept Jahi and provide her with all the nutrition, ventilation support and other care that she needs to stabilize her and to assist her in reaching maximum medical improvement," Dolan said in a statement. "I have been in contract with the plan administrator for Jahi's insurance who indicated that it appears that this transfer could work."

Dolan, however, added Jahi would need additional medical equipment and treatment before she would be accepted into the other facility. He has reached out to Children's Hospital to help in the possible move.

"I am hoping that they will cooperate," Dolan said. "It is clear that they want Jahi out of the hospital...the family agrees, they want her out of there too, but they would prefer that she leave while her heart is still beating and she has vent support."

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled just before Christmas Eve that the hospital could remove Jahi from the ventilator.

David Durand, the hospital's chief of pediatrics, on Thursday released the following statement in response to the family's request:

Children's Hospital Oakland continues to offer its sympathy and support to the family over the recent death of Jahi McMath. We are aware that the family's attorney has stated the family hopes to transfer Jahi's body to another facility. However, he has refused to identify the facility to which they hope to transfer Jahi's body. The family's attorney has stated that multiple surgical procedures need to be performed on Jahi's body before this possible transfer can be completed.

Judge Grillo was very clear on Tuesday December 24. He ruled Jahi McMath to be deceased and instructed the hospital to maintain the status quo. Judge Grillo did not authorize or order any surgical procedures or transfer to another facility. Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice. Children's Hospital Oakland continues to extend its wishes for peace and closure to Jahi McMath's family.

Jahi's family, who are devout Christians, said they believe Jahi is still alive, because her heart is still beating. The teen suffered cardiac arrest after bleeding profusely following her Dec. 9 operation to fix her sleep apnea. She was declared brain dead for the first time on Dec. 12.

Grillo based his decision on the conclusions of court-appointed Dr. Paul Fisher of Stanford University and the hospital's Dr. Robin Shanahan. A third doctor at Children's also made the same finding. All the EEGs performed showed there is no sign of brain activity.

Grillo said he had no other choice but to allow the hospital to remove the ventilator.

"I wish I could fix it, but I can't,'' he told the court last week.

The hospital had argued that the teen had no chance of recovery since all brain function had ceased.

"Our sincere hope is that the family finds peace and can come to grips with the judge's decision," hospital attorney Doug Strauss said outside court after Grillo's ruling.

The case is now out of Grillo's court and the decision will be up to the California Court of Appeal if the family decides to pursue its legal case to keep Jahi on the ventilator.