US & Canada

Jahi McMath, 'brain dead' US girl: Life support extended

Undated photo of Jahi McMath
Image caption It is unclear how Jahi McMath's tonsillectomy to treat sleep apnoea went so awry

The family of a US teenager declared brain dead after a routine operation went wrong has won an extension to the court order keeping her alive.

The court order keeping her on life support in California had been due to expire on Monday evening.

Jahi McMath, 13, had a tonsillectomy this month to treat a sleep disorder but she began bleeding heavily after surgery and went into cardiac arrest.

Her family says there is still hope for recovery.

However, the Children's Hospital & Research Center, which carried out the procedure, wants to turn off her ventilator.

On Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ordered the hospital to maintain Jahi on a ventilator until 7 January.

Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, said she wept when she heard about the ruling.

She said the delay was an answer to a prayer and a sign that she was right to keep fighting.

"Who wants to know the date and the time their child would die?" she said. "I don't care what anyone has to say about what I'm doing... I have to do what is right for me and for Jahi."

Jahi's family believes she is still alive but the hospital in Oakland, California, has argued in court papers that there is no medical treatment they can give to the teenager because she is "practically and legally" dead.

An independent paediatric neurologist from Stanford University supported that view.

In an earlier ruling, a judge at Alameda County Superior Court agreed and issued an order allowing Children's Hospital to remove Jahi from a breathing machine at 17:00 local time on Monday (01:00 GMT on Tuesday).

Hospital spokesman Sam Singer said they would comply with the judge's new order.

The McMaths are hoping that a New York facility will care for their daughter. Two California care homes have already withdrawn offers to accept Jahi.

It is unclear how the girl's operation on 9 December went so badly awry. She was having her tonsils removed to treat her apnoea, a condition that causes sleepers to experience irregular breathing.

Jahi was declared brain dead three days after surgery.

The family said in a statement at the weekend: "We have our strong religious convictions and set of beliefs and we believe that, in this country, a parent has the right to make decisions concerning the existence of their child: not a doctor... and definitely not a doctor who runs the facility that caused the brain death in the first place."

Children's Hospital says it is willing to work with the family to transfer Jahi to another facility, as long as it can legally do so.

Image caption Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, cries at a court hearing last week

"We need to be able to talk to the other facility to understand what it is they are capable of doing," Cynthia Chiarappa, a hospital spokeswoman, said.

"This is not transferring an individual in a vegetative state, but a dead body."

Jahi's family has launched an online fundraising drive, which had collected more than $22,000 (£13,000) by Monday morning, to transfer their daughter to another facility.

The McMaths' lawyer, Chris Dolan, said he was waiting to hear from a hospital in New York, where officials have been considering the case.

"The family is together, and today everybody is praying and being together," Mr Dolan told the Associated Press news agency on Sunday.

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