Nursing home says it won’t take brain-dead girl

A San Francisco Bay Area nursing home has backed out of an agreement to provide long-term care for a 13-year-old Oakland girl declared brain dead.

The facility, which has not been named, withdrew after Children’s Hospital Oakland, where Jahi McMath is now on a ventilator, refused to insert the breathing and feeding tubes necessary for her long-term care.

“We lost the facility that we were originally going to go with,” said Omari Sealey, Jahi’s uncle and the family’s spokesman.

Sealey said they are now in talks with three other nursing homes — two in Los Angeles and one in New York — that might be willing to take her.

A lawyer for Children’s Hospital Oakland said in a letter made public Friday that before the hospital would comply with the family’s request to move Jahi, it would need to speak directly with officials at any nursing home to make sure they understand her condition, “including the fact that Jahi is brain dead” — and to discuss needed preparations, including transportation.

Lawyer Douglas Straus also said the Alameda County coroner needs to sign off on the move “since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead.”

“Children’s Hospital will of course continue to do everything legally and ethically permissible to support the family of Jahi McMath. In that regard, Children’s will allow a lawful transfer of Jahi’s body in its current state to another location if the family can arrange such a transfer and Children’s can legally do so,” Straus wrote in the letter.

The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau said it had no comment.

The letter was sent to the family’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, after he said he was preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the hospital to outfit Jahi with breathing and feeding tubes — surgical procedures Dolan said she would need to breathe and be fed at the new facility but which the nursing home is not equipped to insert.

The girl’s relatives had announced Thursday that they had found a nursing home in the San Francisco Bay Area that was willing to care for the girl if she had the tubes. Within hours, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics issued a statement saying Children’s would not cooperate because it “does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice.”

Upon learning of the hospital’s position, the facility backed out.

Dolan said earlier Friday that he was drafting a civil rights lawsuit alleging that the hospital’s refusal to cooperate violated her family’s religious, due process rights and privacy rights.

A compromise between the two sides needs to be reached quickly. A state court judge this week gave Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, until 5 p.m. Monday to appeal his decision to allow the hospital to take her daughter off life support.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery at Children’s Hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest.