Legal quandary

Judge rules a jury must decide whether girl declared brain-dead 3 years ago is dead or alive

Jahi McMath pictured in April 2016 getting a kiss from her younger sister. (Keep Jahi Mcmath on life support Facebook page)

A California judge has ruled that a jury must decide whether a teenage girl who was declared brain-dead three years ago is still alive, after evidence showed that the girl’s body, which was maintained through life support, had managed to go through puberty.

More than three years ago, Jahi McMath was pronounced dead after surgeons at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland allegedly botched a routine tonsillectomy performed on the then 13-year-old. But Jahi’s mother, Latasha Spears Winkfield, who has endured a heartbreaking struggle over the last three years, noted that her daughter was still able to twitch her fingers — even though Jahi was technically brain dead, from Winkfield’s perspective, it seemed clear that her daughter was still alive.

Citing her Christian belief, Winkfield traveled to New Jersey, the only U.S. state that accommodates people who don’t recognize brain death as the legal end of life, in order to prevent California doctors from removing Jahi from life support. Jahi’s family, which was already seeking damages for the alleged malpractice, is now seeking a ruling to officially declare that she is alive — and to mandate that the hospital be made to pay for her future care.

While doctors representing the hospital have said that brain dead patients are capable of slight movements, a doctor who examines the girl every three months for the family has testified that she began menstruating while in New Jersey. After a ruling on Tuesday by Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido, a jury will have to determine not only whether or not malpractice occurred, but whether or not Jahi should be considered dead or alive. For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.


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