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Jahi McMath Lawyer: ‘There’s Always Hope’

| January 15, 2014
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(Jahi McMath Fund)

(Jahi McMath Fund)

Christopher Dolan, the San Francisco lawyer representing the family of Jahi McMath, appeared today on a Huffington Post Live panel to discuss the brain-dead Oakland teenager and the ethical and legal issues surrounding the case.

He said that while it would be inappropriate for him to offer a medical opinion, “There’s always hope that there could be life that will be returned to Jahi. … There are several documented cases where there have been individuals who have been diagnosed with brain death who have evolved from that.”

Jahi, 13, was declared brain dead last month after surgery at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Her cardiopulmonary function has been sustained by a ventilator since then. Dolan won a court order on behalf of Jahi’s mother, Latasha Winkfield, preventing the hospital from removing the ventilator, and Jahi was transferred last week to another facility.

‘There are several documented cases where there have been individuals who have been diagnosed with brain death who have evolved from that.’
— Christopher Dolan

Dolan acknowledged after the move that Jahi “is in very bad shape.” But he later reported via Twitter that doctors had performed a tracheostomy and insert a feeding tube, and that physicians “are optimistic that her condition has stabilized and that her health is improving from when she was taken from CHO.”

Since Jahi is legally dead, Children’s Hospital had refused to perform those procedures.

Dolan argued today that the case can’t be fully understood without considering the religious faith of Jahi’s family and the New Testament’s story of Jesus Christ:

I don’t think you can separate the family’s beliefs from the family’s hopes. And I think that the context of this case as it happened during the holiday season, the Christmas season for them, is important, because we were praying to a god who brought his son here by a miracle, who then committed miracles including raising of the dead, who died and was resurrected by a miracle. So when you bring in their beliefs as Christian beliefs, you have to call your own beliefs into question and wonder, ‘Do we practice a fiction, which is that miracles happened only once, a long time ago? Or do we practice a real belief?’

Asked what the family’s “end game” is in the case, Dolan said: “Well, I think if there’s not a radical recovery, the family’s going to evaluate what the condition of Jahi is and have an opportunity to then make a decision. The mother has publicly stated that if her daughter deteriorates or if her daughter becomes in pain, that she will make the decision as any responsible parent would to remove her from the ventilator.”

Doctors consulted about the case inside and outside Children’s Hospital have said the condition of the girl’s body will degrade over time despite any intervention. A summary of one opinion reported by the Los Angeles Times:

The deterioration of Jahi’s body is now the only possible course and “became inevitable the moment she died,” according to a court declaration from Dr. Heidi Flori, a critical care physician at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, which had sought to remove the teen from the ventilator after she was declared brain dead Dec. 12.

“The medical team and I believe that additional and more dramatic signs of the body’s deterioration will continue to manifest over time, regardless of any procedures and regardless of any heroic measures that any facility in the country might attempt,” Flori said in the declaration filed in U.S. District Court.

“Mechanical support and other measures taken to maintain an illusion of life where none exists cannot maintain that illusion indefinitely,” she added.

Here’s the video from Huffington Post Live:

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • sam

    so why doesn’t someone ask him to cite these cases of recovery from brain death? he’s an idiot who can’t tell the difference between coma, traumatic brain injury, persistent vegetative state, and brain dead.

  • Patty Cake

    Their religious beliefs SHOULD be disregarded. Brain death is not a type of death, it IS death. Jahi has a heart beat ONLY because a man made machine is making it beat. Since Chris Dolan agrees he isn’t a doctor, why doesn’t he take the world of 6 doctors who proclaimed Jahi is gone? Who cares what season it was? Dead is dead, and Jahi’s body is decomposing. Shut up Dolan, you’re a shyster, money grubbing fool!

  • Trish

    Lazarus didn’t have a ventilator keeping his heart going. It was God’s will for Lazarus to be resurrected. The family is talking out of both side of their mouths. If this really have any thing to do with their belief then…I say their beliefs are distorted. This child’s heart is being manipulated by a machine. That in itself took this situation out of God’s hand. I wish they would stop playing the religious card. If God want Jahi to be alive then she would be. This is just past ridiculous and selfish of her family.

  • Trish

    Take Jahi off the ventilator…then we will find out if she indeed still have a heart beat.

  • Eleanor A quatrain

    Show us those document acted cases where six neurologists declared someone brain dead and it was in error…….

  • DianeLPN

    If God did not want her with Him in Heaven she would be awake and not living only via a machine. I know I am not the only person that cares what happens to this child’s body or the only one that is sick and tired of hearing the words of this so called attorney. Why is there no official overseeing what is going on with this body? We all know that if her body was indeed in a licensed facility someone there would have spilled the beans already. And what kind of doctor would insert a trach and a g-tube in a dead body? A vet?? I am a Christian and proud to be one but Lazarus was risen when Christ walked the earth and those miracles were also done when Christ walked the earth. YES, I believe miracles still occur but it will not happen in this case. Next thing you know is every person declared brain dead by various doctors will have their bodies lugged home by family members instead of being laid to rest in peace.

  • Sunnysmom

    God had his say on December 9th, man intervened. However, while macabre and misguided, as long as there will be no legal precedents set that expect the medical community to insert feeding tubes on deceased bodies, I think they family should be able to do what they want. Obviously they’re find the private funding so whatever.

  • sickandtired

    This whole circus is nothing but waste of everybodys breath and resources that could be used somewhere, where really needed.
    But this is America’s sue happy people and religion combined with greed.
    I hope that her souls is where it needs to be, what is left behind is just empty case.
    Shame on the family and the judge!
    And the scum lawyer.

    • colleen10001

      I don’t know about suing but I do know many Americans are seeing too many cases were GOV policy and the medical profession in general, is changing what was standard adequate care in serious situations……. Many of us have seen very concerning cases first hand and we know Obamacare with more and more GOV impact isn’t even in full swing yet. Not even counting the surge of baby boomers about to be involved in more and more medical care because of the natural aging process….. It is very important we pay attention to all GOV policy concerning medical care…..

  • Trish

    Seriously Chris Dolan, how can a dead brain evolve? Clearly, those people weren’t brain dead.

  • tired of it mom

    this is not the first time a family has chosen to keep a brain dead child on life support. I was reading a case involving an 11 year old boy from new York I believe. the only differences were that his heart stopped beating within weeks and im not sure if there was such a backlash from the media and people commenting on the case.

    • tired of it mom

      motl brody 12 year old

    • laylahb

      Modechai (“Motl”) Brody was a 12-year-old boy who had brain cancer and was in a hospital in DC, in a coma, for about six months. He was declared brain dead, and his father, an Ultra-Ultra Orthodox rabbi from the Satmar sect would not allow the hospital to remove his son from the machine. According to Jewish Law (“Halakah”) the only death is cardiac death. This had absolutely nothing to do with “bringing him back.” A court case began, but ended when Motl’s heart stopped beating about a week later.

      What’s interesting is that the family was from New York, which has a stature providing reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs. Had they gone to a hospital there, and not D.C, the legal antics would not have happened. By the way, the Washington Post, and others did follow the case, but it ended before it started. New Jersey has its own statute, where the hospital must defer to the parents.

  • Jennifer Lloyd

    Yeah and mom said if the court appointed doctor said she was brain dead she would remove the vent but that hasn’t happened

  • colleen10001

    RESPECT the RIGHTS and BELIEFS of FAMILY…… My statement: “The medical community is there with a skill set to help injured, sick patients ….the patient and the families are the final decision makers”

  • Coco

    have respect for the dead body not for the lawyer’ money and mom’s denial…..

  • Bahamian Prayer Warrior

    With God, All things are possible. Do not listen to the nay sayers. Cast all of your cares upon Him; for He cares for you (1Peter 5:7). Read and prayer the Word of God to her. God’s word is as real as the person standing next to you. God’s word tells us that his word will not return to him void but that it will accomplish that which He sent it forth to do. I know – God raised me up and He is no respecter of men – what He did for me, I know He can do for Jahi. I just want Jahi’s family to know that there are many people praying for God to work a miracle in Jahi’s body. Persevere in prayer, keep the faith – our God is still a miracle working God.

    Bahamian Prayer Warrior

    • preservativefree

      My goodness, that must be some strong weed you are smoking. Hallucinations and delusions.