Court order to keep US teenager Jahi McMath on life support set to expire

The Californian teenager was declared brain dead after a routine operation went wrong

US teenager Jahi McMath who was declared "legally dead" after her routine operation went wrong may soon be taken off life support.

The 13-year-old Californian girl had a tonsillectomy in December to treat her sleep apnoea, but suffered complications after she began bleeding heavily.

She went into cardiac arrest was declared brain dead three days after surgery.

Despite her family believing she is still alive, doctors at Children’s Hospital & Research Center where the procedure was carried out want to turn off Ms McMath’s ventilator. 

A court order keeping her on the machine expires on Monday 17:00 local time (01:00 GMT) and the hospital in Oakland maintains that because she is “practically and legally” dead there is no medical treatment that can save her.

Both an independent paediatric neurologist from Stanford University and the judge at Alameda County Superior Court support the hospital’s argument.

However, her family hope that an institution in New York will care for Ms McMath after two care homes in California withdrew offers to treat her.

They have so far raised over $22,000 (£13,000) to help with the cost of transferring Ms McMath to an alternative hospital. 

Ms McMath’s family said in a statement: “We have our strong religious convictions and set of beliefs and we believe that, in this country, a parent has the right to make decisions concerning the existence of their child: not a doctor... and definitely not a doctor who runs the facility that caused the brain death in the first place.”

It remains unclear how the 13-year-old’s operation on 9 December caused her to go into cardiac arrest.

Staff at the hospital where she is being kept say they will continue to work with her family to transfer the teenager to another facility, as long as they are legally able.

Cynthia Chiarappa, a hospital spokeswoman, said that moving Ms McMath is not akin to transferring a patient in a vegetative state, but rather moving “a dead body”.

“We need to be able to talk to the other facility to understand what it is they are capable of doing,” she said.

The McMaths' lawyer, Chris Dolan, said he was waiting to hear from a hospital in New York, where officials have been considering the case.