As parents, we can all sympathize with Nailah Winkfield. She is the mother of Jahi McMath, who in 2013 was declared brain dead at a Northern California hospital. Late last year, Winkfield filed a federal lawsuit requesting that her daughter be declared “alive.”
In December 2013, Jahi, a 13 year old child, had tonsil surgery to help her with sleep apnea. She went into cardiac arrest after the surgery. Doctors say she suffered irreversible brain damage from lack of oxygen and declared her brain dead three days after the surgery. However, her mother insisted that her daughter was alive and the legal battle began.
Jahi’s mother filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco after California courts refused to rescind McMath’s death certificate. If the federal court had invalidated the death certificate, healthcare insurers would have been required to pay for Jahi’s treatment, allowing her to be cared for in Oakland.
The hospital wished to take Jahi off life support two years ago, and a California judge agreed. However, before that occurred, Winkfield arranged for her daughter to be transferred to a New Jersey facility, which allowed an exception for brain death. It is the only state in the country with such a law. According to The New York Daily News, the 15-year-old Jahi now receives around-the-clock medical care as New Jersey requires health insurers to cover treatment for patients who are declared legally dead, but still show minimal brain function.
Lawyers for Winkfield filed a lawsuit in federal court asking that the girl be declared alive, which would invalidate the Oakland coroner’s death certificate. Attorney Chris Dolan represents the McMath family, and is hoping for a court victory so that Jahi can obtain medical care at home in Oakland with the expenses paid by the health insurance company.
Jahi’s mother told the Daily News that her daughter has shown signs of life, such as the twitching of fingers and toes. Medical experts, however, discounted those movements as signs of life. Physicians have stated such twitches could be spasms and reflexes commonly seen in corpses. The experts say the teen shows hardly any brain activity and is clinically dead.
Against all medical evidence, Winkfield fights for her daughter. Would you be able to make the same decision and, dollars aside, at what physical and mental cost to your family could you fight?