Jahi McMath's family files federal lawsuit to have death certificate revoked

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A lawsuit filed in federal court seeks to have a judge deem Jahi McMath alive so her mother can return with the girl to California, a family attorney said Wednesday.

Speaking via Skype from New Jersey, McMath’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, told reporters her daughter is very much alive.

“There’s no way in the world I would be holding onto a dead person,” Winkfield said. “That’s crazy.”

McMath was declared brain dead following complications after a tonsillectomy at Children’s Hospital Oakland in Dec. 2013.

Attorney Chris Dolan said doctors and officials in Alameda County should have never made that declaration. He and Winkfield released a photo of the girl and said despite the doctor’s predictions, Jahi’s body is not deteriorating, remains in good condition, and has even entered puberty. They claim she responds to specific commands on cue.

"Nobody is saying Jahi is going to get up tomorrow and walk, but we're saying she deserves the same care as anyone else in California with a brain injury," Dolan said.

According to the lawsuit, McMath remains in New Jersey where she receives minimal in-home care and is in “excellent health.”

Winkfield transferred her daughter to New Jersey two years ago because it was the only state that acknowledges religious exemption to brain death. She said she was forced to get a death certificate from Alameda County to remove McMath from Children’s Hospital Oakland.

According to Dolan, McMath is currently being treated by Dr. Alieta Eck in New Jersey, who has determined that McMath is responsive to commands.

“There is no place Jahi and her mother can go to provide all the evidence we’ve amassed that she is not dead,” Dolan said. “All doors have been closed.”

Dolan is hoping the lawsuit will get a federal judge to deem McMath alive and have her rights restored.

Winkfield ultimately wants to bring McMath home to Oakland to be surrounded by family and friends.

"I'm ready to come home," Winkfield said. She added that it has been hard to be so far away from family and friends. She has been forced to give up her job, sell her house and tap her mother's resources to keep going, and no longer lives with her other two children, she said.

“I will never give up on my daughter,” she added.

When asked for a comment regarding the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Coroner’s Office said McMath was declared dead by the state of California two years ago.

The family in March also filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital in Alameda County Superior Court. That case has a case management conference scheduled for Jan. 8.

Attempts to reach hospital officials for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.