P.I. Pulse: Young Girl’s Life Ended by Botched Tonsillectomy

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The family of a young and now brain dead California girl is reeling following two weeks of unfathomable hardship and distress. A relatively low-risk, common surgery, the tonsillectomy, was performed on 13-year-old Jahi McMath; the procedure was recommended by two doctors, both of whom contended that removing the tonsils would resolve issues such as sleep apnea, weight gain and inability to concentrate, which had been plaguing McMath.

Instead of yielding the anticipated positive results, the evidently botched operation has left McMath brain dead; the hospital in which she is being treated has declared her legally dead and has moved to remove her from life support, although a lawyer intervened at the last minute on behalf of the family.

What exactly went wrong on the operation table is yet to be revealed. Shortly following the operation, all seemed to be going well as McMath seemed to be recovering normally.

Then, upon transfer to the ICU for further recovery, Jahi’s medical condition worsened rapidly—she started coughing up large amounts of blood and she entered cardiac arrest, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her brain. On Tuesday, December 17, 2013, a CT scan revealed that 2/3 of her brain had “swollen.” Furthermore, legally, according to the standards under which the hospital operates, 100% of her brain is “dead.”

While excessive bleeding has been known to take place in the aftermath of a tonsillectomy, it is by no means a common occurrence. What exactly transpired during the procedure—what specific actions and precautions the doctors took during the operation—remains to be explained. Citing privacy laws, the hospital has been quiet about the entire ordeal.

According to a relatively recent report by Healthgrades, a company that reports on the quality of the U.S. healthcare system, nearly 200,000 deaths occur in U.S. hospitals every year due to medical errors. Negligent maneuvers by surgeons, irresponsible oversight by hospital staff and many other forms of medical malpractice jeopardize the lives of millions—and end the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals every year.

Jahi McMath’s ultimate fate is yet to be determined. A recovery, while wonderful, is unlikely. How long she will remain on life support is now up to the court system. Regardless of the decision, McMath has suffered a tremendous loss and so has her family. Their 13-year-old daughter, because of a relatively routine medical procedure, was rendered brain dead and legally dead.

The McMath family has legal rights; they can retain an attorney and file a medical malpractice and/or wrongful death suit against the hospital and doctors responsible for this absolute tragedy. They can seek compensation to help cover the abundant costs that they will incur—medical costs, funeral costs, therapy costs, the cost of the loss of future income, etc.

It goes without saying that when mistakes are made in hospitals, the medical professionals involved are usually not acting maliciously. Nevertheless, they can and should be held accountable when an individual or group of individuals suffers unnecessarily due to their negligence and/or recklessness. If you or your family has sustained an injury or significant loss due to the negligence of a medical professional or establishment, please reach out to us and let us explain how we can help.

For a free consultation with an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg, please call 561-266-9191 or email daronberg@aronberlaw.com.