Jahi McMath was declared brain dead after her routine tonsil surgery went horribly wrong, and now the family of the 14-year-old is suing the hospital they say is responsible.
McMath was 13 when she went into cardiac arrest during a surgery to correct sleep apnea. The case made national headlines, especially as McMath lingered in a coma and doctors searched for signs of life.
Now, McMath’s family is bringing a lawsuit against surgeon Frederick Rosen, who they said went through with a “complex and risky” procedure, even after finding that Jahi had a condition that increased her chances of hemorrhaging.
The lawsuit also targets doctors and nurses at Oakland’s UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, who they claim failed to appropriately respond when Jahi began coughing up blood.
The fight over Jahi McMath and her future has raged on for months after her initial cardiac arrest. Even though a coroner in Alameda County, California, declared McMath dead, she remains on a ventilator in a New Jersey hospital.
Family members claim that Jahi has shown signs of brain function and awareness, though a neurology specialist disagreed in a court-ordered evaluation.
The move to New Jersey was key. Had Jahi McMath remained in California, she could have been taken off a ventilator at the order of doctors. But New Jersey law allows families to keep a loved one on life-support even after doctors declare the person brain dead.
“I’m her mother. I’m going to support her. It’s my job to do it. Any mother would do it,” her mother Nialah Winkfield said in an interview with CNN shortly after the original brain dead diagnosis. “I just want her to have more time. There are so many stories of people waking up in her situation.”
At the time family members publicly accused hospital officials of being callous in their treatment of Jahi McMath, and said they were grateful that the ruling gave them more time with her.
“This gives us the opportunity to spend Christmas with Jahi here at the hospital and possibly bring in the New Year with her as well,” Omari Sealey, Jahi’s uncle, told KGO-TV in San Francisco.
The lawsuit claims that doctors ignored Jahi’s protests that she was coughing up blood, with one nurse noting on a hospital chart that she brought up the situation to doctors but was told there could be “no immediate intervention.”
After hours of bleeding, Jahi’s heart stopped and doctors rushed to attend to her, pumping two liters of blood from her lungs.
It is unclear what damages the family of Jahi McMath is seeking in the lawsuit.