Mother: Child dies at the center of brain death debate

SAN FRANCISCO – A girl at the center of the medical and religious debate over brain death has died after surgery in New Jersey, her mother said Thursday.

Nailah Winkfield said Doctors declared their daughter Jahi McMath dead from excessive bleeding and liver failure after an operation to treat an intestinal problem.

McMath has been in a vegetative state since December 2013, when a California coroner ruled that the 13-year-old girl died after suffering irreversible brain damage during an operation to remove her tonsils.

Winkfield refused to accept the conclusion and moved with the girl to New Jersey, where she was supported with life support and received attention. The state accommodates religions that do not recognize brain death.

"Jahi was not brain dead or had any kind of death," Winkfield said. "She was a girl with a brain injury and deserved to be cared for like any other child who suffered a brain injury."

Winkfield acknowledged her daughter's terrible medical condition, but said that her Christian beliefs forced her to fight for her. Occasionally, the girl showed physical signs of life by moving a finger or wringing her finger.

Winkfield obtained a court order to keep McMath briefly on life support in California and then used the money raised online to take the girl on a private plane to New Jersey.

Winkfield and his lawyers had been trying to terminate California's death certificate as part of a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Children's Oakland Hospital. By refusing to dismiss the lawsuit last year, a judge ruled that it was for a jury to determine whether the child was still alive.

Attorney Chris Dolan said the New Jersey death certificate eliminated that argument, but he and Winkfield are still debating whether to continue the fight and possibly setting a precedent so that other religious families do not have to go through the same situation.

The Children's Hospital's attorneys argued that the family did not submit McMath to tests accepted by the American Medical Association. to determine brain death.

Dolan says that new technology has made traditional tests to diagnose brain death obsolete.

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