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Jahi McMath’s family insists she’s alive

Ten months after doctors declared a 13-year-old Oakland girl brain dead, an attorney for her family is asking a judge to issue an order saying that she’s still alive.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the family of Jahi McMath, said in a court filing this week that he has evidence from medical experts that Jahi has not suffered brain death.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo, who ruled last December that there was clear and convincing evidence that she was brain dead, will hold a hearing on the family’s request next Thursday.

Jahi, an eighth-grade student at E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts in Oakland, went to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland last Dec. 9 for a tonsillectomy procedure that was intended to cure a sleep apnea problem that had made it difficult for her to sleep.

However, she suffered complications after the procedure and doctors declared her brain dead on Dec. 12. Jahi’s family filed suit asking for a court order that would require the hospital to keep her on life support.

On Jan. 3, the family and the hospital agreed on a compromise that allowed Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, to remove Jahi from the hospital as long as she took responsibility for the child’s care.

As part of the agreement, the Alameda County Coroner’s Office issued a death certificate allowing Jahi to be released from the hospital on the condition that when her organs shut down the family would have to notify the coroner and bring her body back to Oakland.

Dolan said in a statement today that Jahi has been receiving medical care for the past nine months “at an undisclosed location.”

Dolan said he will hold a news conference at his law office in San Francisco on Friday that shows Jahi moving at the request of her mother. Jahi’s mother and other family members will be present to answer questions from the news media, Dolan said.

The attorney said he will present MRI evidence of Jahi’s brain structure that shows that, although her brain has suffered serious damage, it hasn’t liquefied.

Dolan also said Phil Defina, the chief executive of the International Brain Research Foundation, which has assisted the family throughout the past nine months, and neurologist Calixto Machado, who he described as an expert on brain death, will discuss their findings and answer questions.

Dolan said:

“Newly-developed evidence, including MRI films and EEG tests, show that Jahi has brain activity and is not brain dead.”

Grillo held an initial hearing on Tuesday on the family’s request that he reverse his ruling that Jahi is brain dead, but he said in an order afterward that the general rule is that a court loses jurisdiction over a case once it enters its final judgment and he issued his final judgment in Jahi’s matter on Jan. 17.

Grillo said he has:

“…no opinion on the proper procedural vehicle for petitioner (Jahi’s family) to request a determination that Jahi McMath has not suffered brain death, is not deceased under the law and that her death certificate should be voided.”

But Grillo said his tentative thinking is that:

“… the issue is not presented properly in this case.”

Dr. David Durand, the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer, said in a statement that although the hospital has had no contact with Jahi’s family since Jahi was released to the coroner on Jan. 5, it “extends its heartfelt sympathy to the family.”

Durand said:

“We trust that the California courts, the Alameda County Coroner and the state of California will evaluate any claims made by the family’s attorneys and decide them in a lawful and just manner.”

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