The lawyer for the family of a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy verbally sparred Wednesday with the hospital where she is on life support on what was otherwise a quiet New Year's Day after weeks of praying, wrangling and weeping over Jahi McMath. NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd has a Jahi McMath update, including about a group of people who has been helping the family behind the scenes.
The lawyer for the family of a 13-year-old declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy verbally sparred Wednesday with the hospital where she is on life support, on what was otherwise a quiet New Year's Day after weeks of praying, wrangling and weeping over Jahi McMath.
The family attorney, Chris Dolan, said there wasn't much to report, other than he was "burning up the phones" trying to find a long-term care facility that would take Jahi. Trying to find a doctor to perform a tracheostomy in such a high-profile case, he said, was very difficult.
"If this damn hospital would just 'trache' her, we would be on the way to a facility that will provide world-class innovative treatments of the type being given to Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon in Israel," Dolan added. Sharon has been in a permanent vegetative state since 2006 after a stroke, but his brain shows "robust activity" in response to pictures of his family.
The owner of a traumatic brain injury center called "New Beginnings" said she would take Jahi, even though the eighth grader was declared dead following a Dec. 9 tonsillectomy at Children's Hospital in Oakland to cure her sleep apnea. Dolan had also identified an unnamed center in Arizona he was trying to work with to accept Jahi.
Hospital spokesman Sam Singer took a shot at Dolan, however, on Wednesday.
"Chris Dolan is perpetuating a sad hoax on the public that there is something that can be done to the body of Jahi McMath to bring her back to life," he said. "This is a tragedy that is being prolonged by Mr. Dolan. He is not being honest with his clients, the media and the public. The sad truth is that this young lady is dead and is not coming back. Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this case."
Aside from the question of who will pay for all this, there are several medical and legal challenges ahead for the family in transporting the girl who has been declared dead by three doctors and a judge last month. In fact, Jahi's brain has not received oxygen for "well over two weeks," according to the findings of Stanford Dr. Paul Fisher.
But in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland on Dec. 30, Children's Hospital argued that doctors should not have to keep Jahi on a ventilator indefinitely and should not have to provide nutrition to or surgical procedures on a "deceased body."
A state appeals court on Tuesday refused to order the hospital to insert the tubes, saying the issue has to go first to the lower court judge who has ordered the hospital to keep the teenager on a ventilator until Jan. 7 pending the family's appeal.
The hospital argued in 28 pages of filings that doctors are not violating any patient's rights, because a dead person has no rights. The hospital also argued that Jahi's mother, Latasha "Nailah" Winkfield has had "ample time" to find another facility "that might accept her deceased daughter's body."
"Life sustaining medical treatments - such as a ventilator - serve no purpose when a patient is dead," the court filings by hospital attorney Douglas C. Straus read. "As tragic as her death is, her mother does not possess a constitutional right to redefine death."
But despite all that's happened, Jahi's mother, Latasha "Nailah" Winkfield, doesn't accept the fact that her daughter is dead. She described Jahi as "warm." And she insists that Jahi moves when she's touched.
"I hate it that they refer to her as 'the body' or the deceased because that’s my child," Winkfield said Tuesday. "They don’t even use her hame. Her name is Jahi Mcmath and they don’t refer to her by name and I feel like that’s so disrespectful. "
Meanwhile, Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, said he will definitely have a new perspective on life in 2014 due to the struggle he's endured to keep his niece's heart beating.
"I have spent Christmas & now NYE in a hospital waiting room," Sealey said on Instagram. "Things that use to matter, actually never did and I know that now. I love you Jahi."
Sealey also said he still strongly disagrees with the hospital's take on Jahi's status.
"He [the hospital spokesman] wants to make the hospital the victim and pretend that this is a hoax and say my lawyer is perpetuating a myth," Sealey said. "One think I can say about my lawyer is he is a good man, he is doing this at no cost at all. Let’s be clear, he is only doing what we ask him to do.”
NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.