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Brain-Dead Teen Becomes Poster Child for California Malpractice Cap Reform

After suffering whole brain death in December following a routine tonsillectomy, 13-year-old Jahi McMath and her family’s fight to keep her on life support has become a cause célèbre.  Mike Huckabee used the McMath tragedy to rail against abortion and warn the U.S. was at risk of becoming a totalitarian state. Pro-life groups, such as Terry Schiavo Hope and Life Foundation, have backed the case, turning the brain-dead child into a symbol of government and hospital board’s power over patient care.

Now, it has been revealed another group has turned Jahi into their newest poster child, using her sad case to fundraise for reform on long-standing malpractice caps in California.

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court sent an e-mail last month using Jahi’s case to ask for funds to support a measure to get the malpractice reform back on the ballots.

“She went in for simple tonsillectomy and ended up on life support,” the email sent to supporters said. “If kids injured by medical negligence die, the most their families can recover is $250,000 … If children who are victims of medical negligence live, hospitals are on the hook for medical bills for life, which could be millions.”

Sam Singer, spokesperson for Children’s Hospital of Oakland, where McMath remained before being moved to an undisclosed location, called using a little girl’s suffering for fundraising was “both shameless and shameful.”

Christopher Dolan, attorney for Jahi’s family, who has himself been accused of exploiting the child and her family with this case, also agreed it was “a bad thing to do.”

Despite serving as current board member of Consumer Attorneys of California, the main group lobbying for the reform, Dolan, who is working pro-bono, said that Jahi’s case was “not about raising money for any type of initiative.”

Hospital spokesperson Singer added that the allegations made against the hospital in the Consumer Watchdog e-mail “are fraudulent and misleading, based on conjecture and not on the facts.” He stressed the hospital believes “the public will see the actions of these attorneys as dishonest, disreputable and heartless.”

In response, Consumer Watchdog’s president fired back, demanding that they were not exploiting the child but exposing the hospital’s lack of accountability, the real reason reform is needed in the first place.

“Oakland Children’s Hospital is going to be a poster child for reform, because we have seen other cases where there is the same lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to the death of a child,” Court said, emphasizing, the truly disreputable and heartless were the hospital team that is willing to “call a patient who is breathing a corpse in order to vindicate themselves.”

Photo Credit: Screenshot/ABC News

 

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.