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Jahi McMath, victim of surgery gone wrong, may not be brain dead

Most people likely remember when the apparently brain dead 13-year-old Jahi McMath was moved to a hospital in New Jersey. Although currently still on life support and under the care of her family, they claim that they have new evidence showing that her surgery gone wrong did not leave her wholly brain dead. If they are able to prove that this is true, any compensation from a medical malpractice claim could be affected.

In 2013, McMath underwent multiple surgeries at an out-of-state hospital. Complications from these surgeries resulted in two different doctors determining that she was brain dead. However, her family disagreed with this diagnosis, although she was issued a death certificate in return for her family receiving permission to transfer her elsewhere.

After spending time in the New Jersey hospital, she was moved into a home with a younger sister, her stepfather and multiple nurses. While she is still on life support that supplies her basic needs, her family says that she is showing some brain activity. A doctor has even noted that the swelling in her brain has gone down some, and that more recent testing indicates that she's not brain dead, but simply brain damaged.

The family recently filed a petition to have McMath's death issue revoked based on what they believe to be compelling evidence that she is not actually brain dead. If they are successful, they may be able to receive more compensation than they were previously eligible for, should they ultimately prevail in a medical malpractice claim. In the state where McMath suffered the surgery gone wrong, per a law that caps compensation for children who have been killed because of medical malpractice, her family was eligible for only $250,000. However, in New Jersey, there is currently no cap on financial recourse related to medical malpractice unless under special circumstances.

Source:, "Stanford doctor who examined Jahi McMath last year sticks by diagnosis that she is brain-dead", David DeBolt, Oct. 8, 2014

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Alan D. Bell
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