The last hope for Jahi McMath to be kept on a ventilator may come from a former Long Island hairdresser who runs a brain-injury treatment center dedicated to Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whose case sparked a fierce nationwide end-of-life debate.
The news of the possible transfer came as the state Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday it is investigating Children’s Hospital Oakland and its handling of the Oakland 13-year-old after her tonsil surgery and two other procedures to remove throat and nasal tissue, complications from which left her brain dead.
On Tuesday, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network said publicly for the first time that it has been helping Jahi’s family for weeks to find a place to transfer her. The network has worked “in relative silence for the sake of the sensitivity of her case.”
“Jahi McMath has been labeled a ‘deceased’ person. Yet she retains all the functional attributes of a living person, despite her brain injury,” the organization said in a news release. “This includes a beating heart, circulation and respiration, the ability to metabolize nutrition and more. Jahi is a living human being.”
According to a court filing from the family’s attorney, the family is hoping to transfer Jahi into the care of the New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, N.Y.
New Beginnings founder and owner Allyson Scerri shared a statement on her Facebook page Tuesday explaining how her facility “is about preserving life and treating brain-injured patients with care and dignity.”
“We do encourage every citizen to take the time to educate themselves more clearly on the issues of what brain death is and what it is not,” the New Beginnings statement read. “This child has been defined as a deceased person, yet she has all the functional attributes of a living person despite her brain injury.”
Jahi came to the hospital Dec. 9 for three procedures to treat her sleep apnea. But complications led to extensive bleeding and cardiac arrest; six doctors declared her brain dead, including an expert in pediatric neurology from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
The hospital has said it would transfer Jahi if her family and attorney meet certain conditions. On Monday, a judge extended an order keeping the girl on a ventilator through Jan. 7.
The family has said that Jahi needs surgery to implant a tracheotomy line to help her breathe and a gastric tube to provide nutrition before she can be transferred to the New York facility, but Children’s Hospital officials have refused to do the procedures, saying it would be unethical to operate on a dead body.
Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter, a Bay Area physician who specializes in critical and palliative care medicine, does not have personal knowledge of Jahi’s case, but has practiced medicine for more than 20 years. She said that even in brain death, a body can only last for a limited period without nutrition.
“A body can’t go for much more than two to three to four weeks without nutrition,” said Nutik Zitter. “A young person may be on the longer end.”
Thursday will mark three weeks since Jahi was declared brain dead.
“Brain-death doesn’t usually go on for several weeks,” she added. “The brain is responsible for autonomic processes and if the brain is not alive, certain autonomic processes will cease and result in eventual death.”
Nutik Zitter said she has never heard of a case where a family has fought to keep a brain-dead person on machines in the hope that he or she would recover. (…) Read Full Publication Here