By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross
Updated 5:41 pm, Friday, October 3, 2014
- Attorney Chris Dolan looks at an MRI of Jahi McMath at a news conference where he showed video that he says demonstrates that McMath is not brain dead in San Franicisco on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2014. Photo: Mathew Sumner / Special To The Chronicle
To bolster his claim that Jahi McMath
should be declared “alive again,”
the attorney for the Oakland teenager’s family displayed video clips Thursday that he says show the girl responding to her mother’s requests to move her feet and hands.
“Jahi suffered a serious brain injury — no doubt about it,’’ attorney Chris Dolan
said. “But we question how accurate the brain-dead assessment is.”
Doctors at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland declared the 13-year-old girl brain dead
in December after she went into cardiac arrest following routine surgery to deal with sleep apnea. Her family has fought the hospital every step of the way and says she is still alive.
Dolan said the goal was to “get the mantle of death off of her” so that Jahi can return to California from New Jersey, where she is being cared for by her mother, stepfather and sister at a private home.
In one video clip,
which the attorney said was shot within the past few days, Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield,
is seen coaxing her daughter to move her foot and toes.
“Come on Jahi, you can do it,” Winkfield says, and after several seconds pass, the girl jerks her foot.
In another clip,
the mother urges Jahai to move her hand, which is holding a foam padded cup. The girl lifts the cup a few inches, then drops it.
In both videos, Jahai is hooked up to a ventilator and feeding tube.
Dolan also showed still photos of Jahi in a cherubic state with her hair neatly pulled up in a bun and her skin appearing smooth and healthy.
The attorney said he would use the videos to support his filing this week in Alameda County Superior Court seeking to have a judge overturn his finding that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that doctors had properly declared Jahi brain dead.
He showed off the videos to reporters in his Market Street office, in a presentation that featured two large TV screens and a phone hookup with the head of a brain research foundation in New Jersey who took part in tests on Jahi at Rutgers University medical school.
If Dolan can persuade the court to overturn the judge’s death finding — as well as a subsequent ruling from the Alameda County coroner — she could be returned to her home in California, with the costs to care for her shifted to the state and possibly UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.
Jahi can’t get health care in California now because of the declaration of brain death, Dolan said. “We can’t do anything now because under California law she is brain dead.”
If nothing else, the photos and video call into question assertions by hospital representatives last year that Jahi’s body would soon deteriorate.
In a court filing by the hospital in December, a critical care pediatrician at Children’s warned that “dramatic signs of the body’s deterioration will continue to manifest over time.’’
Dolan, on a speaker phone with Philip DeFina,
chairman and CEO of the International Brain Research Foundation in New Jersey, said researchers had conducted brain imaging and other tests on Jahi at Rutgers University with the assistance of medical school neurologist Charles Prestigiacomo
and found she had measurable brain activity.
“If the brain is dead, there is no electrical activity,” DeFina said.
Stanford bioethics Professor David Magnus,
who has not seen the video showing Jahi’s movements or DeFina’s findings, disputed the validity of any test that wasn’t an independent clinical exam conducted by a qualified neurologist.
“I haven’t seen any signs or evidence that they have had such an evaluation,” he said. “The rest is smoke and mirrors.”
Magnus added, “Patients (found brain dead) don’t recover — it’s irreversible. That would be groundbreaking, and a dramatic finding that would be problematic for the entire neurological community.’’
DeFina said he wasn’t questioning the findings of Children’s examining doctors, but rather the adequacy of the test for brain death that was developed in the 1960s and is still the standard.