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article imageFamily of brain-dead child moves legal battle to federal court

By Nathan Salant     Dec 25, 2015 in World
Oakland - The family of a brain-dead Oakland teen has filed a federal civil rights suit claiming her California doctors violated her rights by issuing a death certificate while the girl was still breathing.
The mother of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old who died in 2013 of catastrophic complications from what should have been a routine tonsillectomy, insists the girl still can recover and is asking the U.S. courts to have the death certificate cancelled so they can return to California.
The family's appeals in California were denied, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
But Nailah Winkfield, Jahi's mother, claims in the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that the girl has shown signs of brain activity in the past few months.
“There’s no way in the world I’d be holding onto a dead person,” Winkfield said told a news conference in San Francisco by video.
“I want her to have the same rights any other disabled child has,” Winkfield said.
Jahi was declared brain-dead in December 2013 after the tonsillectomy at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland, Calif.
Jahi emerged well from surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and excess throat tissue but soon began bleeding heavily, went into cardiac arrest and died.
At a news conference at the law offices of Christopher Dolan in San Francisco, Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, addressed the media in an online video from New Jersey, insisting her daughter is alive.
“There’s no way in the world I’d be holding onto a dead person,” she said. “I want her to have the same rights any other disabled child has.”
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital officials declared Jahi legally dead in December 2013, and says any movements by the girl are due to reflexes, not life.
But Dolan, the family's attorney, says the death certificate issued by Alameda County is invalid despite a court ruling that month that found "clear and convincing evidence" that Jahi had died.
“This complaint is designed to restore Jahi McMath’s life — to give her the most basic dignity and freedom to be called a human being and not a corpse,” Dolan said at the news conference.
Jahi's grandmother, Sandra Chatman, said she visited the New Jersey facility last month and said the girl was getting better.
“I ask her to give me a thumbs-up, and she does it,” Chatman said.
“She’s just doing awesome, I couldn’t be more proud of Jahi," the grandmother said.
Dr. Alieta Eck, the girl's current doctor, has filed a legal declaration declaring Jahi to be alive.
“While Jahi McMath has suffered a serious, and significant brain injury, and exhibits the presentation of one who has suffered serious brain trauma, and exhibits signs and characteristics of serious brain damage, Jahi McMath is not dead,” Eck said in her declaration.
“She exhibits signs of brain function,” Eck said.
And Winkfield, of course, wholeheartedly agrees.
“I definitely believe that God will heal her,” Winkfield said.
“I’ll pull a trigger on myself before I pull a plug on her,” she said.
More about Jahi, McMath, braindeath, Sleep Apnea, Breathing
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