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Family seeks medical consensus for California girl declared brain dead

A lawyer for the family of a California girl declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy wants to broker a conference between several physicians who insist she exhibits signs of life and a court-appointed doctor who rejects their findings.

Relatives of Jahi McMath, aged 13 when she suffered cardiac arrest in December following surgery to treat sleep apnea, petitioned a judge weeks ago to revoke her death certificate and restore her status as a living person.

They cite statements from several doctors saying new medical tests performed on Jahi, who is on a ventilator in New Jersey, found unmistakable signs of brain function, even awareness, at odds with a brain death diagnosis.

“Jahi currently does not fulfill brain death diagnostic criteria. She is an extremely disabled but very much alive teenage girl,” wrote Dr. Alan Shewmon, professor emeritus of neurology and pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Those assertions were quickly challenged in a letter to the judge by a Stanford University pediatric neurology specialist appointed by the court to review the petition, Dr. Paul Fisher.

Fisher countered that the tests and findings were irrelevant for determining brain death in a child, and that a key exam for brainstem function, testing a patient’s ability to breathe unassisted, was missing from the evaluation.

 

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