OAKLAND — Family members of a teenage girl who was declared brain dead after
an allegedly botched sleep apnea procedure filed a medical malpractice
lawsuit today against UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.
The suit on behalf of the family of Jahi McMath alleges that
doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital were negligent by being too slow to
help Jahi after she developed problems on Dec. 9, 2013, when she underwent a
tonsillectomy procedure that was intended to cure a sleep apnea problem that
had made it difficult for her to sleep.
The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, seeks
unspecified damages for personal injuries on behalf of Jahi, negligent
infliction of emotional distress and the family’s claim that the hospital
breached standards of care.
It names as defendants Children’s Hospital and Dr. Frederick
Rosen, an ear, nose and throat surgeon who performed the procedure.
Jahi, who was an eighth-grade student at E.C. Reems Academy of
Technology and Arts in Oakland, suffered complications after the procedure
and doctors declared her brain dead three days later on Dec. 12, 2013.
However, Jahi’s family filed suit and won a court order to require
the hospital to keep her on life support.
On Jan. 3, 2014, the family and the hospital agreed on a
compromise that allowed Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, to remove Jahi from
the hospital as long as she took responsibility for the child’s care.
The family then moved Jahi, who is now 14, to a facility in New
Jersey, where she is still receiving medical care. The family is seeking a
court order that would declare that Jahi is still alive and have her death
The suit alleges that Rosen didn’t notify nurses about an abnormal
artery in Jahi’s throat near the surgery site that increased the risk of the
procedure and that two nurses gave her family conflicting information about
what they should do when they noticed excessive bleeding by Jahi after the
One nurse told family members to suction the blood but another
later told them that doing so would remove blood clots vital to Jahi’s
recovery, the suit claims.
One nurse told Jahi’s family that the bleeding was normal but
another nurse said she didn’t know if it was normal or not, according to the
Winkfield, Jahi’s mother, pleaded with nurses to call a doctor to
Jahi’s bedside after she started bleeding but the nurses refused to, the suit
A doctor finally came to Jahi’s bedside at 12:35 a.m. on Dec. 10,
2013, five hours after Jahi had started bleeding, and said, “(Expletive), her
heart stopped,” the suit claims.
Jahi had suffered a heart attack and on Dec. 12, 2013, Winkfield
was told by the hospital that Jahi had suffered severe brain damage and would
be put on an organ donor list and would be taken off life support the
following day, according to the suit.
The family’s attorney, Bruce Brusavich, alleged today that the
hospital was “incredibly insensitive” to Jahi’s family, at one point sending
a security guard to approach Winkfield as she was praying at the hospital’s
chapel to urge her to sign a document to donate Jahi’s organs.
At another point, according to the suit, Dr. David Duran,
Children’s Hospital’s chief of pediatrics, slammed his fist on a table while
he was talking to Jahi’s family about taking her off life support and said,
“What is it you don’t understand? She is dead, dead, dead, dead!”
Children’s Hospital spokeswoman Melinda Krigel said in a statement
today, “Our hearts go out to the McMath family. It is our policy not to
comment on pending litigation.”
Brusavich said that although Jahi suffered brain damage, she is
still on life support and is doing relatively well.
Brusavich said a recent MRI that was conducted on Jahi at Rutgers
University in New Jersey found that her brain hasn’t liquefied, which he said
refutes the claim by Children’s Hospital doctors that she is brain dead.
Copyright © 2015 by Bay City News, Inc.