Archives For Brain Dead


Larry W. Smith / EPA

Erick Munoz, center, walks into the Tarrant County Courthouse with his attorneys Friday in Fort Worth, Texas.

By M. Alex Johnson and Charles Hadlock, NBC News

A judge ordered a Texas hospital Friday to remove Marlise Munoz, who is pregnant and brain dead, from life support after the hospital acknowledged that her fetus isn’t viable.

Tarrant County District Judge R.H. Wallace gave John Peter Smith Hospital of Fort Worth until 6 p.m. ET Monday to disconnect Munoz, 33, from her ventilator, as her husband, Erick, has demanded since November.

Lawyers for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, which defended the hospital, wouldn’t comment when asked whether they would appeal the ruling.

Heather King, an attorney for the Munoz family, told reporters: “There’s nothing happy about today. It’s a sad situation all the way around. We are relieved that Erick Munoz can move forward with the process of burying his wife.”

In a statement, JPS Health Network, the hospital’s parent company, said it “appreciates the potential impact of the consequences of the order on all parties involved and will be consulting with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office.”

The hospital had argued as recently as Thursday that even though Munoz has been brain dead since Nov. 28, withdrawing her from life support “would cause the death of the unborn child.”

Courtesy KC Studios Photography

Erick and Marlise Munoz hold their son Mateo.

But in a joint affidavit stipulating the facts of the case filed shortly before Friday’s hearing, it said that “at the time of this hearing, the fetus gestating inside Mrs. Munoz is not viable.”

The hospital had also pointed to a state law that says life-sustaining support can’t be withdrawn or withheld from a pregnant person, presumably to “protect the unborn child against the wishes of a decision maker who would terminate the child’s life along with the mother’s.”

In his ruling, Wallace wrote that the law didn’t apply because “Mrs. Munoz is dead.”

Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in November from what doctors believe was a pulmonary embolism. The fetus is now at about 22 weeks’ gestation.

Erick Munoz said in an amended motion filed Thursday that his wife was legally dead, and to further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous.”

Further complicating Wallace’s decision was a statement by Munoz’s attorneys this week that they had medical records showing that the fetus was “distinctly abnormal.”

There’s very little case law over the Texas statute, and Wallace’s ruling didn’t shed any new light. He wrote that because the law didn’t apply in this case, he didn’t need to rule on any of the constitutional arguments Erick Munoz had made.

Wallace was hearing the case after Judge Melody Wilkinson recused herself last week when state election and ethics records showed that her campaign treasurer is also general counsel for JPS Health Network, the hospital’s parent company.


By Ed Payne and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jahi McMath is on a ventilator and has been declared brain dead by doctors
  • Her family is moving her to another facility
  • A New York facility says it’s a potential destination for Jahi McMath
  • The family has raised more than $48,000 on GoFundMe.com to cover her move

(CNN) – Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl on a ventilator who was declared brain dead by doctors in California after tonsil surgery, was released from a hospital to her mother Sunday night.

“The body of Jahi McMath was released by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland to the coroner,” said David Durand, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics. “The coroner has released her body to the custody of her mother, Latasha Winkfield, as per court order, for a destination unknown.”

She left the hospital accompanied by a critical care team, attached to a ventilator, but with no feeding tube in place.

Family attorney Christopher Dolan cheered the development. “She is safely out of Children’s,” he tweeted.

Although a New York facility says it’s ready to care for Jahi, Dolan told reporters Sunday night that her destination won’t be announced.

“We’ve had people make threats from around the country. It’s sad that people act that way,” Dolan said. “So for Jahi’s safety and those around her, we will not be saying where she went or where she is.”

But New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, New York, said it is an option.

“At this time we’re named as the potential facility that Jahi and her family will be coming to, but we will know more details in a couple of hours, and we’ll certainly be happy to let you know as we know,” said Allyson Scerri, founder of the New Beginnings.

On its website, the facility bills itself as an outpatient rehabilitation center for patients with traumatic brain injuries and says it plans to open a long-term care facility. According to her online biography posted on the facility’s website, Scerri worked as a hair stylist for 25 years and founded the facility after her father sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.

“We are aware of Jahi McMath’s dire situation, and we are willing to open our outpatient facility to provide 24-hour care as an inpatient, long-term facility for Jahi with the required and appropriate medical staff that she depends upon,” Scerri said in a letter included in court documents last week.

The teen was declared brain dead on December 12, three days after doctors removed her tonsils, adenoids and extra sinus tissue.

A medical and ethical debate

As a fierce court battle unfolded between devastated family members fighting to keep her on the ventilator and doctors arguing she’d already died, the case has drawn national attention and fueled debate.

Doctors and a judge have declared her brain dead and said there’s no chance Jahi will come back to life.

“Overall, unfortunate circumstances in 13-year-old with known, irreversible brain injury and now complete absence of cerebral function and complete absence of brainstem function, child meets all criteria for brain death, by professional societies and state of California,” Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology at Stanford University, said in a medical report on the case.

Medical ethicists, meanwhile, say the high-profile case fuels a misperception: that “brain death” is somehow not as final as cardiac death, even though, by definition, it is.

Covering the costs

So far the family has raised more than $48,000 on GoFundMe.com to move her. According to the site, more than 1,300 people have donated money in nine days.

“We’re very grateful, very proud,” said Omari Sealey, Jahi’s uncle. “We want to thank everyone that supported us, everyone that stood in our corner, everyone that prayed for us, everyone that helped donate to make this possible. Without out you guys, none of this would be possible.”

Scerri told CNN Sunday that the girl just needs to be given a chance to recover.

“Her brain needs time to heal. It’s a new injury,” Scerri said. “We believe in life after injury. All of us here at New Beginnings have first-hand experience because we have a loved one that was in the same situation as Jahi.”

Dolan said moving Jahi to a new care facility is critical to her recovery.

“We’re very pleased to announce that Jahi McMath has been taken from Children’s Hospital and brought to a place where they will use her name instead of calling her a body, and where she can get to the starting line instead of where Children’s has left her the past four weeks almost, at the finish line.”

On Friday, the Alameda County coroner issued a death certificate for Jahi.

The certificate, which still needed to be accepted by the health department to become official, listed December 12 as her date of death.

In releasing Jahi, the hospital said: “Our hearts go out to the family as they grieve for this sad situation and we wish them closure and peace.”

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Martin Savidge, Janet DiGiacomo, Greg Botelho and Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.


By Elisha Fieldstadt, Staff Writer, NBC News

The family of a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead by three doctors received an extension from a judge on Monday to keep the 8th-grader on life support until Jan. 7.

Courtesy of McMath Family and Omari Sealey via AP

Jahi McMath,13, had her tonsils removed on Dec. 9 and was declared brain dead three days later.

With an hour to spare, Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo reinstated a restraining order preventing an Oakland, Calif., hospital from removing Jahi McMath from life support at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET) on Monday.

“We are hopeful that one of these actions will forestall the hospital’s rush to extinguish Jahi’s chance at life,” said McMath’s uncle, Omari Sealey.

McMath underwent a tonsillectomy and other operations to alleviate her sleep apnea on Dec. 9. She started bleeding profusely and went into cardiac arrest shortly after.

The young girl’s family has been in a legal battle with Children’s Hospital in Oakland since doctors at the hospital declared her brain dead three days later.

The family already had won a restraining order preventing doctors from removing the girl from a ventilator keeping her alive, but Grillo revoked her order Tuesday after hearing testimony from an independent physician who said McMath met “all criteria for brain death,” according to NBC Bay Area.

Grillo said in that ruling that Children’s Hospital could remove Jahi from life support unless the family filed a formal appeal, which they did on Monday.

McMath’s parents have insisted that their daughter is alive, regardless of doctors’ opinions that her condition is irreversible.

“I would probably need my child’s heart to stop to show me that she was dead. Her heart was still beating, so there’s still life there,” McMath’s mother, Nailah Winfield told the Associated Press on Friday.

But David Durand, chief of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, said administrators did “not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice.”

Stephen Lam / Reuters file

Omari Sealey, left, uncle of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, and Sandra Chatman, grandmother of McMath speak to members of the media after a court hearing in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 24.

In efforts to keep Children’s Hospital from removing the girl from the machine that was supporting her basic life functions, her family tried to move her to two other facilities in California. But doctors at both facilities refused to treat someone who had been declared dead.

But Sealey, the girl’s uncle, said Monday that an unidentified hospital in New York had agreed to admit Jahi and on Monday, the family was organizing for an air ambulance to transfer the teen across the country.

On Friday Winfield wrote on a fundraising page, “My family and I are still striving to find a location that will accept her in her current condition … Let us pray that some one (sic) will have the heart to accept her despite what Children’s Hospital says. So that we can get her air lifted away from this place as soon as possible.” On Monday, donors had contributed over $25,000 to Jahi’s cause.

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