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New York facility the 'last hope' for teen

The family of a California girl who has been declared brain dead says a facility in New York may be able to accept her and keep her on life support.

Jahi McMath's uncle and lawyer didn't provide the facility's name in a statement Saturday, saying they don't want media attention to affect her chance of being accepted there.

Attorney Chris Dolan said the New York facility is the last hope after two facilities in California backed out.

Timing is short for the family. A judge ruled that Children's Hospital Oakland may remove the 13-year-old from life support at 5 p.m. Monday unless an appeal is filed.

Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa said the hospital has not heard from any facility to discuss how it can accommodate "a deceased body on a ventilator."

Time is short for the family, as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo on Tuesday ruled that the Children's Hospital Oakland may remove Jahi McMath from life support at 5 p.m. Monday unless an appeal is filed.

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. Doctors at Children's Hospital concluded the girl was brain dead on Dec. 12 and wanted to remove her from life support. The family said they believe she is still alive.

Before Jahi can be transferred, she must undergo two more medical procedures — the insertion of a breathing tube and a feeding tube, both of which would be necessary for her long-term care but which the nursing home is not equipped to perform.

The hospital has refused to perform the procedures.

"Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice," David Durand, its chief of pediatrics, said in a statement Thursday.

Douglas Straus, a lawyer for the hospital, said in a letter made public Friday that before the hospital would comply with the family's request to move Jahi, it would need to speak directly with officials at any nursing home to make sure they understand her condition, "including the fact that Jahi is brain dead" — and to discuss needed preparations, including transportation.

"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.

He also said the Alameda County coroner needed to sign off on the move "since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead."

The letter was sent to Dolan after Dolan said he was preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the hospital to outfit Jahi with breathing and feeding tubes. He said the hospital's refusal to co-operate violated her family's religious, due process rights and privacy rights.

The Canadian Press


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