The common medical procedure that left a teen brain-dead

When your child goes into hospital for what should be a simple and routine procedure, the last thing you expect is for them to die. Yet this has seemingly happened to a teenage girl after what should have been a straight forward tonsillectomy, went horribly wrong. The decision her parents are being forced to make, the day before Christmas, is absolutely heartbreaking.

When Jahi McMath, 13, went in to hospital to have her tonsils removed last week at her local Children’s Hospital, she was expected to have an overnight stay and then experience nothing more serious than an agitated throat and some mild discomfort as she recovered. Instead, she is now brain dead. Her family, left with no other option than to turn off her life support, have been fighting the hospital involved to get a second opinion, with mother Nailah Winkfield declaring “I am not leaving unless she leaves with me because I will not let them pull the plug on my child”

“The family of a Northern California girl on life support after being declared brain dead was expected to appear with hospital officials in court on Monday to announce the name of the independent physician it has chosen to provide a second opinion on the girl’s condition.

Jahi McMath’s family obtained an order on Friday from Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo to keep doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland from removing Jahi from a ventilator.

Grillo ordered the family to meet with doctors to select a neurologist to evaluate the 13-year-old.

In its court memorandum, the hospital said it has no duty to maintain life support because Jahi’s condition is irreversible.

“Ms. McMath is dead,” the hospital said in the memo. “Children’s is under no legal obligation to provide medical or other intervention for a deceased person.”


The family says the girl bled profusely after a routine tonsillectomy she undertook for Sleep Apnea. She then went into cardiac arrest before being declared brain dead on December 12.

Children’s Hospital responded in a statement that while it sympathises with Winkfield’s wishes, it would be unfair to give false hope.

The hospital’s statement contends the surgery was complicated, and that the facility is committed to fully investigating what caused “this catastrophic outcome.”

The hospital said in documents presented to the court on Friday that a staff neurologist and Jahi’s attending physician conducted separated exams, both of which determined that Jahi’s entire brain, including her brain stem, had stopped functioning.”

The family, whilst in the midst of such devastation, are now being faced with the simple request of a second opinion, becoming a legal battle. Wouldn’t every parent, if they had the presence of mind at such a terrible time, be requesting the very same thing? The fact that they now have to take such stressful legal steps for what should be their right, is beyond belief.

This is such a terrible situation for these parents and they must be commended for doing everything they feel is necessary for their daughter. It is unclear if the hospital or its physicians are at fault, or if there is a chance that Jahi will ever recover. What is clear, is that we can’t take anything for granted in this world and that we must fight for those that cannot fight for themselves.