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Time is running out for the family of a California teenager who was declared brain dead after a routine tonsillectomy went awry.
Three weeks ago, 13-year-old Jahi McMath went into Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland to get her tonsils removed to treat her sleep apnea. But soon after the surgery, McMath began to bleed profusely and went into cardiac arrest.
Doctors at the hospital declared her brain dead a few days later. A court order that had kept the 13-year-old on a ventilator ends today at 5 p.m. PST.
The McMath family is trying to get another facility to care for the 13-year-old so she can remain on a ventilator.
George Annas, a medical ethicist and professor of health law and bioethics at Boston University, tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that usually doctors declare someone dead when the heart stops beating and cannot be restarted. In McMath’s case however, doctors determined death when McMath’s brain completely stopped functioning.
“We keep talking about her being on life support,” Annas said. “She’s not on life support. She’s on a mechanical ventilator that is usually used to support life, but in this case it’s used to pump air into a corpse.”