A lawyer for a family whose 13-year-old was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy to cure her sleep apnea filed an "urgent" request seeking to block the hospital from further action Tuesday, the same day employees planned to take the girl off life support.
In a letter delivered Tuesday morning to the top echelon of Children's Hospital in Oakland, attorney Chris Dolan said that "no action" should be taken regarding the life and death of Jahi McMath until there can be a "judicial termination."
Hours later, hospital officials granted the family's request, but the decision is only temporary, intended to give the family more time to cope.
Dolan, whose Bay Area firm specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice cases, said that Children's Hospital is acting against the wishes of Latasha "Nailah" Winkfield, Jahi's mother, who does not want her daughter taken off life support. He argued that the hospital has an "irreconcilable conflict of interest" in ending the girl's life.
"I just feel my daughter is trapped inside of her body, just screaming to get out of there," Winkfield said Tuesday outside the hospital, where her family stayed over Jahi's bedside praying for her. "I won't let them take her to the coroner's office. I won't."
Under California law, “A person who is declared brain dead is legally and physiologically dead.”
In an interview with NBC Bay Area, Dolan said he got a call Monday at 10:30 p.m. from Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, desperate for help. He stayed up until 3 a.m. Tuesday writing a letter to the hospital administration and sent it to them by fax and email. He's hoping his letter will prevent any need for a lawsuit or formal injunction. By early afternoon on Tuesday, however, he had not heard anything formal from the hospital.
Dolan's letter cited the California Patient's Bill of Rights, highlighting sections that state patients have the power to "refuse a course of treatment" and may "participate actively" in decisions regarding medical care.
Earlier, hospital spokeswoman Melinda Kriegl sent an email on Monday stating that the hospital was "currently reviewing the case and we do not have enough information to make any further statements at this time." The statement added: “We are very sad about her condition and our hearts go out to her family."
Dolan's request came just hours after the hospital performed an electroencephalogram test, or EEG, on Jahi, whose family said she started coughing up blood 30 minutes after she underwent a tonsillectomy on Dec. 9. The family said at the time, there didn't seem to be enough nursing staff in the room, forcing them temporarily to suction the blood from Jahi's mouth themselves.
The girl suffered a cardiac arrest and was declared "brain dead" on Dec. 12, and "legally dead" on Monday. The hospital administration told Jahi's family that they planned to take the girl off life support on Tuesday and that the matter was out of their hands because it was deemed a "coroner's case."
Her family took to the media, and threatened to involve lawyers, saying they felt something went horribly wrong. They even reached out to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to see if she can help delay the hospital from taking the girl off life support. It is unclear what action, if any, Quan will take.
On Monday, Dr. David Durand, the head of pediatrics, said in a statement that the hospital can't disclose the details of Jahi's case because her family asked it not to disclose them to the media.
"Consequently, we are not able to correct misperceptions created about this sad situation," Durant said in a statement Tuesday.
A prayer vigil for Jahi will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland.
NBC Bay Area's George Kiriyama, Cheryl Hurd and Caitline Matalone contributed to this report.