The case of Jahi McMath, the Oakland teenager declared brain dead earlier this month after complications from a tonsillectomy at Oakland's Children Hospital, is entering a new phase this afternoon. McMath's family won a temporary restraining order last week to keep the 13-year-old on a ventilator, and this morning Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ordered an independent medical examination of the girl. Grillo chose Dr. Paul Graham Fisher of Stanford, a pediatric neurologist, to examine McMath to assess her brain function. The hospital's physicians say McMath's brain has ceased functioning — a condition that leaves her effectively dead — and has sought to remove her from a ventilator.
Fisher, whom the Contra Costa Times reports was chosen from lists of doctors submitted by both the hospital and McMath's family, is reportedly examining the girl today. McMath's family also wants another physician, Dr. Paul Byrne of the University of Toledo, to examine the girl. Byrne is an opponent of the concept of brain death, arguing it's commonly used as a way to make it easier for hospitals to get organs for transplant. He recently likened a New York hospital case in which a patient was determined to be brain dead as "execution."
This afternoon, Grillo extended his order keeping the teen-ager on a ventilator through Dec. 30.
The Times also reports the family is trying to rally public support for keeping the teenager on the ventilator while they seek to place her in another care facility:
As [this morning's] hearing took place at a downtown Oakland court, about 50 family members and supporters participated in an hourlong march that looped in a mile around North Oakland, beginning and ending at Children's Hospital Oakland, carrying signs and chanting "Keep Jahi alive".
Derrick Mann, Jahi's godfather and pastor at Yeshua Ministries of Hayward, led a prayer at the end of the march, calling upon God to go into the hospital and breathe life into Jahi.
"I feel like they should keep her on life support as long as they can," said Chequalah McMath, 21, Jahi's older sister. "I feel it's wrong to pull the plug just because they want to. I feel like there is hope if we just leave it up to God. We pray every day, all day and all night."
A judge ruled last week that officials at the hospital were to keep Jahi on the ventilator until the court-appointed doctor examined her. Nailah Winkfield sent out pictures through social media on Monday showing that Jahi's ventilated breaths were reduced from 15 to 13, but Dr. Durand said that such a change is in keeping with "the status quo" of maintaining Jahi's condition. Judge Grillo emphasized at the hearing that the restraining order remains in effect at least until Tuesday morning.
KQED’s Mina Kim spoke with David Magnus, professor of pediatrics and director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, regarding the case.