- Mar 13:
- Jahi McMath: Family calls state report 'B.S.'; new medical record details emerge
- Jahi McMath: State releases report on Children's Hospital Oakland's handling of patients
- Feb 27:
- Jahi McMath's family to get award from Terri Schiavo foundation
- Feb 19:
- Jahi McMath: Complete text of letter from brain-dead girl's mother
- Jahi McMath 'much better,' her mother says
- Feb 3:
- Data Center: Tonsillectomy hemorrhage rates by California hospital
- Feb 1:
- Jahi McMath: Is it safe to have tonsil surgery at Children's Hospital Oakland?
- Jan 27:
- Jahi McMath video claims to show her feet and toes move
- Jan 25:
- Jahi McMath: five similar brain death legal cases
- Jahi McMath: Could her case change how California determines death?
- Jan 17:
- John Horgan: Don't be too quick to judge Jahi McMath's family
- John Horgan: Readers react to Jahi McMath commentary
- Jan 9:
- Jahi McMath: Medical experts say organ failure inevitable
- Jan 8:
- Jahi McMath: Girl given breathing, feeding tubes, attorney says
- Jan 7:
- Jahi McMath: Streetfighting lawyer takes heat, death threats for brain-dead Oakland girl's family
- Jan 6:
- Jahi McMath: Family says brain-dead teen's body may be too deteriorated to save
- Document: Medical analysis of Jahi McMath's deteriorating condition
- Jahi McMath: Brain-dead girl moved to undisclosed care facility
- Jan 5:
- Jahi McMath: Brain-dead teen's family moves her from Children's Hospital Oakland
- Jahi McMath: Timeline of events in case of brain-dead Oakland teen
- Jahi McMath: 13-year-old brain-dead Oakland girl moved by family from hospital
- Jan 3:
- Jahi McMath: Mom can remove brain-dead daughter from hospital, judge rules
- Jan 2:
- Jahi McMath: Case heads to federal court Friday
- Jan 1:
- Jahi McMath family spends first day of 2014 searching for doctor to help get teen to New York facility
- Dec 31:
- Document: Hospital decries Jahi McMath family's wishes to keep her on ventilator
- Jahi McMath may be transferred to treatment center in New York
- Jahi McMath: Terri Schiavo group secretly leading transfer efforts
- Jahi McMath: Hospital fights in court to remove brain-dead girl from ventilator
- Dec 30:
- Jahi McMath: Judge's order keeping girl on ventilator reinvigorates family
- Jahi McMath: Judge extends order keeping girl on ventilator
- Dec 29:
- Jahi McMath: Statement of Children's Hospital Oakland
- Jahi McMath: Mom and lawyer say only remaining option for brain-dead girl is a New York care facility
- Dec 28:
- Jahi McMath: Family, attorney release letter addressing critics
- Jahi McMath: Family trying to raise money to get 13-year-old airlifted out of state
- Dec 27:
- Jahi McMath: Hospital open to transferring brain-dead teen but won't perform surgery required by admitting facilities
- Jahi McMath: Children's Hospital Oakland agrees to release brain-dead girl to long-term care
- Contra Costa Times editorial: No one recovers from being brain dead
- Dec 26:
- Jahi McMath: Family ready to move brain-dead girl to new facility; hospital may refuse surgery request
- Jahi McMath: 2 years ago, a girl wound up severely brain damaged following similar surgery
- Jahi McMath: Family says they'll move brain-dead girl to another Bay Area facility
- Dec 25:
- Jahi McMath: Family tries to have normal holiday celebration in hospital waiting room
- Dec 24:
- Lost in the divisive battle over Jahi McMath is a mother's undeniable love
- Jahi McMath: Judge denies petition to keep girl on ventilator past Dec. 30
- Dec 23:
- Jahi McMath: Judge extends order to keep brain-dead girl on ventilator
- Dec 22:
- Faith leaders call on prosecutors to investigate Jahi McMath case
- Oakland: Need for tonsillectomies in question
- Dec 21:
- Jahi, her mom and 13 days at Children's Hospital Oakland
- Jahi McMath: Medicine's ability to keep a heart beating complicates how death is perceived
- Oakland: Emotional letter from Jahi McMath's mom to keep daughter 'warm'
- Dec 20:
- Oakland: Judge grants restraining order keeping Jahi McMath on ventilator through Monday
- Family of Oakland girl on ventilator furious after meeting with hospital officials
- Dec 19:
- Family of girl left brain dead at Children's Hospital Oakland demands medical records
- Dec 18:
- Jahi McMath prayer vigil: "God knows we want a miracle"
- Family of Oakland girl on life support after tonsil surgery calls for international prayer vigil
- Dec 16:
- Family furious, hospital investigating after tonsil surgery leaves girl brain-dead
- Oakland: Girl declared brain dead after tonsil surgery may be taken off life support Tuesday
- Dec 15:
- Oakland girl, 13, declared brain-dead after tonsil surgery
One can only imagine the shock Nailah Winkfield felt when she saw her 13-year-old daughter in the intensive care unit, recently out of surgery, bleeding from the mouth.
Nurses told her "it was normal," according to her attorney's account. They gave Winkfield a container to capture the copious amounts of blood coming from the girl's mouth and nose. Winkfield asked for a doctor, but she was only given a bigger container and a suction device.
Jahi McMath had undergone tonsil surgery and two other procedures to remove tissue from her nose and throat. She soon suffered a heart attack. On Dec. 12, three days after her surgery, hospital doctors declared her "brain dead." A machine keeps her heart beating, but she is not alive.
Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath, attends a court hearing to discuss the treatment of her daughter in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Jahi, 13, remains on a ventilator at Children's Hospital Oakland after suffering tragic complications during surgery. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
Unfortunately, mischaracterizations of her condition have helped turn this tragedy into an insane legal fight, still playing out Friday, and a politically charged national debate.
We learned on Tuesday that the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has been working behind the scenes to help the family find a place to transfer the girl. "Jahi McMath has been labeled a 'deceased' person. Yet she retains all the functional attributes of a living person, despite her brain injury," the organization said.
Sadly, that's not true. We're not talking about someone in a coma. We're also not talking about Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state who was the center of a seven-year fight over whether to keep her alive. Jahi's condition is much worse. Unlike Schiavo, in Jahi's case, there is no brain function.
The sudden loss of a child -- within the confines of a hospital, no less -- would devastate and traumatize any parent. The overwhelming emotional blow would understandably trigger Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' grief stages, starting with denial and anger.
Winkfield is no exception. Unfortunately, those around her aren't helping. Instead, they seem to be reinforcing false hope. Winkfield is being misled by the Schiavo Network; her attorney keeps battling to keep the respirator running and move Jahi to a care facility; and members of the media repeatedly describe the machine as "life support."
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo had temporarily blocked the hospital from shutting it off. On Friday, with a Tuesday deadline looming, the two sides reached agreement allowing a care team to remove the girl from the hospital, while remaining on a ventilator, and take her to an undetermined location -- provided Winkfield assumes full responsibility.
Winkfield's attorney, Christopher Dolan, had argued that if the hospital turned off the machine, Jahi would suffer "irreparable harm." He cited cases finding that individuals, or their guardians, have a right to determine their medical treatments, even if they might lead to death.
Thus, he had argued to the state Court of Appeal, "if a person has a constitutional right to end their life they have an equal, if not greater right to undertake measures to prolong their life."
But Jahi has no life to prolong. That was established by not only the hospital's physicians, but also Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of child neurology at Stanford, who was appointed by Grillo to provide an independent evaluation.
Keeping Jahi on a respirator will not bring her back. So there would be no "irreparable harm" in removing it because the worst outcome has already occurred.
Unfortunately, some news reporting contributes to the misunderstandings.
"Court blocks hospital from disconnecting Jahi McMath from life support," read a CNN website headline on Monday. While this newspaper thoughtfully explored the issue of brain death, it has also mischaracterized the legal fight as one of whether to maintain "life support." CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, NPR, Associated Press and the Washington Post did the same.
For all the legal maneuvering and public debate, nothing will change Jahi's tragic condition, and only time will begin to ease the horrific grief her mother feels. Those surrounding Winkfield would serve her best by providing support rather than fueling false hope.
Daniel Borenstein is a staff columnist and editorial writer. Reach him at 925-943-8248 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/borensteindan.