SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The family of a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy gone wrong will be allowed to take their daughter to a new facility without removing the ventilator that is keeping her heart and lungs working.
The agreement on Friday between Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland and the family of Jahi McMath would allow relatives to move the child if they do so before 5 p.m. PT Tuesday (0100 GMT Wednesday), when a restraining order keeping the hospital from removing her from life support is set to expire, said hospital spokesman Sam Singer.
McMath was admitted to Children’s Hospital on December 9 to have her tonsils removed as well as other procedures performed in an effort to treat her sleep apnea. After the surgery, the girl began to bleed profusely, went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain swelling.
The hospital declared her brain dead three days later, and made plans to remove her from the ventilator, but her family has fought in state and federal court to keep her on life support.
The case has drawn international attention, as well as support from relatives of Terri Schiavo, who died in 2005 after a 15-year battle over whether to keep her body alive in a persistent vegetative state.
On Friday, Singer reiterated the hospital’s position that doctors would remove McMath from the ventilator on Tuesday evening, barring a court order to the contrary.
To move the girl, her family would need to provide transportation and find a facility willing to take her, both sides said.
The agreement came shortly after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo on Friday denied the family’s request to force the hospital to insert breathing and feeding tubes into McMath. The procedures would likely be needed for an extended care facility to accept the girl, family attorney Christopher Dolan said.
Evelio also refused a request by the family to require Children’s Hospital to allow an outside physician to perform the surgeries on its grounds.
Dolan said if McMath was not transferred before the new deadline, her family would proceed with a federal lawsuit, filed on Monday, again seeking an order forcing the hospital to insert breathing and feeding tubes into the girl.
McMath’s lungs and heart are only continuing to function because of air being forced in and out of her body by the ventilator, without which her breathing and heartbeat would cease, according to medical experts. Unlike a person in a coma or a vegetative state, McMath lacks any brain activity, rendering her unable to breathe on her own, doctors said.
Hospital officials have said the facility and state health officials are investigating how a routine operation led to McMath’s death and that they understand the family’s anguish.
Editing by Sharon Bernstein, Bernard Orr