OAKLAND — A Northern California hospital where a girl has been declared brain-dead after experiencing complications from a tonsillectomy said Friday that it is now willing to facilitate her transfer to a long-term nursing home, but only under certain conditions.
A lawyer for Children's Hospital Oakland said in a letter made public that before the hospital will comply with Jahi McMath's family's request to move her, it needs to speak directly with officials at the nursing home to make sure they understand her condition, "including the fact that Jahi is brain dead" — and to discuss needed preparations.
Lawyer Douglas Straus also said the Alameda County coroner needs to sign off on the move "since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead."
"Children's Hospital will of course continue to do everything legally and ethically permissible to support the family of Jahi McMath. In that regard, Children's will allow a lawful transfer of Jahi's body in its current state to another location if the family can arrange such a transfer and Children's can legally do so," Straus wrote in the letter.
The letter was sent to the family's lawyer, Christopher Dolan, after he said he was preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the hospital to outfit Jahi with breathing and feeding tubes — surgical procedures Dolan said she would need to breathe and be fed at the new facility but which the nursing home is not equipped to insert.
The girl's relatives announced on Thursday that they had found a nursing home in the San Francisco Bay Area that was willing to care for the girl if she had the tubes. Within hours, the hospital's chief of pediatrics issued a statement saying Children's would not cooperate because it "does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice."
Dolan told The Associated Press earlier Friday that he was drafting a civil rights lawsuit alleging that the hospital's refusal to cooperate violated her family's religious, due process rights and privacy rights.
A compromise between the two sides needs to be reached quickly. A state court judge this week gave Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, until 5 p.m. Monday to appeal his decision to allow the hospital to take her daughter off life support.
Jahi underwent tonsil surgery at Children's Hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest.