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Jahi McMath's family seeks to move brain-dead girl to another facility

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 6:55 PM EST, Fri December 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Family must find a doctor who's willing to operate on body, hospital says
  • 13-year-old Jahi McMath suffered complications after tonsil surgery
  • She was declared brain dead, and a judge has agreed with that
  • The family wants to transfer her to another Bay Area facility, uncle says

(CNN) -- The family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath hopes to transfer the girl to another facility.

A judge has concluded that Jahi, who suffered complications after tonsil surgery, is brain dead.

"Yesterday we spent Christmas together as a family -- doing a lot of prayers and trying to have some fun, hoping for a miracle, and looks like we may have gotten our miracle. We found out that someone is willing to take Jahi away from Children's Hospital to a facility nearby here in the Bay Area to treat her," Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, told reporters Thursday.

"So right now, we're asking Children's Hospital to work with us to make that possible," he said, referring to Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland.

Mother: I think Jahi will wake up
Mom: I feel like Jahi is on death row
Judge rules Jahi McMath is brain dead
Mother: I think Jahi will wake up
Teen brain dead after tonsillectomy

Sealey declined to identify the other facility.

Jahi was declared brain dead by doctors at the hospital on December 12, three days after tonsil surgery.

The case has drawn national attention and sparked protests from some local leaders who say the hospital should have provided better care.

When routine surgeries go wrong

On Monday, a judge appointed Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology at Stanford Children's Hospital, to evaluate Jahi as an independent expert. Fisher testified Tuesday that Jahi meets the criteria for brain death.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo previously ruled that the hospital must hold off on any decisions regarding discontinuing life support until December 30, and the judge encouraged both sides to work together.

Family attorney Christopher Dolan told reporters Thursday that Jahi would need to have tracheostomy and gastrostomy tubes put in before she could be moved.

"The most logical people are the ones in the hospital where she's sitting who have the ability to do that. If they refuse to do that, and insist upon moving towards this deadline of pulling the plug, then we'll just continue to do what we've been doing," he said.

In response to the family's statement, the hospital "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," wrote hospital attorney Douglas C. Straus in a December 27 letter to Dolan.

"Children's is willing to cooperate in this regard even though Judge Grillo has confirmed that Jahi is deceased and that statutory patient transfer procedures do not apply here," Straus wrote.

The hospital asked the family's attorney for the name of the facility that would accept Jahi, a transportation plan for her, and consent from the Alameda County coroner for the "transfer since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead," Straus wrote.

The family will also have to "find a physician that would be willing to operate on the body," said hospital spokesman Sam Singer.

In an earlier response to the family, Children's Hospital Chief of Pediatrics David Durand noted that the judge didn't authorize a transfer to another facility.

"Judge Grillo was very clear on Tuesday December 24. He ruled Jahi McMath to be deceased and instructed the hospital to maintain the status quo. Judge Grillo did not authorize or order any surgical procedures or transfer to another facility.

"Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice. Children's Hospital Oakland continues to extend its wishes for peace and closure to Jahi McMath's family," he said.

CNN's Dan Simon, Catherine E. Shoichet, Michael Martinez and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.

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