Jahi McMath, Declared Brain Dead After Tonsil Removal 5 Years Ago, Passed Away

Jahi was declared brain dead in 2013, but remained on life support for five years.

Child on life support
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Jahi was declared brain dead in 2013, but remained on life support for five years.

Jahi McMath and her mother Nailah Winkfield have fueled the medical versus religious debate over whether someone who is brain dead is actually dead for the past fives years. Unfortunately, Jahi passed away following a surgical procedure on June 22.

According to NBC News, McMath passed away from liver failure and excessive bleeding during an operation to repair an intestinal problem. Back in December of 2013, when Jahi was just 13 years old, she was declared dead by medical experts after she suffered irreparable brain damage during a routine tonsil removal surgery. Her death certificate was signed, and several neurological specialists confirmed Jahi to be brain dead.

With a strong Christian faith, Nailah refused to accept her daughter was dead and put up a fight for medical professionals to continue to provide her with proper care. According to Winkfield, her daughter wiggling her toes and moving her fingers were clear signs of life.

Nailah had her daughter transported to a medical care facility in New Jersey that would continue to provide her daughter with care as they respected and accommodated religious beliefs that did not recognize “brain dead” as being medically dead.

“Jahi wasn’t brain dead or any kind of dead,” Winkfield told media outlets, according to NBC News. “She was a girl with a brain injury and she deserved to be cared for like any other child who had a brain injury.”

Nailah and her daughter Jahi continued to attract attention, which included that of supportive conservative religious groups. These religious groups raised money through donations and fundraisers to help support Nailah on her quest to make sure her daughter received continued care.

In addition to charitable donations, Nailah sold her home and used every penny of her savings to pay for her daughter’s care. New Jersey’s Medicaid program also contributed to Jahi’s care.

Winkfield admitted that the last five years have not been easy on her, but she can sleep with peace of mind knowing she did everything she possibly could to care for her child. She was at peace knowing no one took away her right to continue to care for her child.

In addition to fighting for her daughter to continue to receive care, Winkfield also went to war against the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. As part of a medical malpractice lawsuit, Winkfield wanted the hospital to rescind the death certificate that was originally signed five years ago.

A judge, refusing to throw out the lawsuit, ruled that a jury would have to decide whether the girl died five years ago when the death certificate was originally signed. Winkfield and her lawyers are currently undecided whether they want to continue to push the lawsuit. While she is just happy to finally have peace of mind, she also wants to set a pathway for other religious families going through the same thing.