The family of Jahi McMath and their attorney lashed out Thursday at a state report concluding that Children's Hospital Oakland complied with medical regulatory standards in its handling of the young girl's case.
Critics of the hospital questioned the thoroughness of the report, conducted by the state Department of Health, discussing for the first time details from the 13-year-old girl's medical records they say raise serious questionsabout her care at the East Bay facility. They said these details should have been addressed in the investigation.
Calling it a "B.S. report," Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, in tweets questioned why the family was not interviewed as part of the investigation, which was prompted by the Oakland's girls tonsil surgery and two other procedures to treat her sleep apnea. The Oakland girl wound up bleeding significantly after her surgery and was later declared brain-dead.
"The State never interviewed the family who was THERE to witness Jahi bleeding to 'CA brain death' & there is no answer why she bled?" Sealey wrote in a series of tweets. "What's done in the dark, will come to light."
The state would not comment on specific Jahi-related questions, citing patient confidentiality laws. They would only say the survey was conducted after receiving a complaint about Jahi's care.
"The California Department of Public Health conducted a comprehensive survey of care and services received by each patient sampled in the survey," according to the state agency. The hospital also defended the level of the investigation and the results.
Along with observing patients in the hospital at the time of the survey, reviewing relevant documents and interviewing staff, the state investigation included "patient/family interviews with patients and/or family willing to participate."The state did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the Jahi family's allegations that they were not interviewed.
Family attorney Christopher Dolan released a statement saying the report was an example of doctors protecting doctors and stressed that just because the hospital was found to follow general institutional criteria, it did not mean there was not medical negligence in Jahi's case.
The night of her surgery, after massive bleeding, Jahi went into cardiac arrest at midnight and remained "Code Blue" until 3:40 a.m., said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, who added he has consulted with sources who have reviewed Jahi's medical records. He said her Code Blue lasted much longer than most.
"Either something was missing in the record or they were not attending to her," Court said.
Consumer Watchdog filed a complaint with the state Attorney General's Office on behalf of Jahi shortly after her case went public. The organization has highlighted Jahi's case as a reason to remove the cap on medical malpractice cases. Jahi's mother has criticized nurses' response to her daughter's bleeding. However, there were no nursing notes detailing the hemorrhaging episode, Court said.
"The records are worse than incomplete, but even what's there still has red flags," Court said. "That's often how they conceal medical negligence."
In a statement Thursday, Children's Hospital said a team of six surveyors, including nurses, physicians and state investigators, reviewed 239 federal standards and their report was "comprehensive."
"Mr. Dolan can voice his own opinions unchallenged while we are precluded from addressing the issues raised since we have never received a signed authorization for us to speak to any aspect of this case," said spokeswoman Melinda Krigel. "While we again cannot comment on this specific case, if there was evidence of a delay in response to an emergency or treatment, this would have been a finding of a review."
State investigators reviewed Jahi's patient file and 28 others chosen at random from the same time period. The report includes no patient names and no specifics into patients' postoperative conditions or whether any of them suffered postoperative bleeding.
The report, obtained by this newspaper through a public records request, found the hospital was "in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation." General acute care hospitals must follow certain federal standards to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
The state's report found one area of "deficiency" in how the hospital handled the patients' medical records, but it is unclear if Jahi's case was one of those mishandled cases.
Dolan said he felt "betrayed by the medical profession."
"People need to be clear what (this) report is … It's akin to an investigation after a motor vehicle death, where they inspect the vehicle, its maintenance records and tread depth of its tires, and whether the driver was licensed. It does not examine the defendant driver's conduct before the fatal collision. It does not evaluate whether, in a specific case, there was medical negligence," Dolan said. "It is members of the medical profession reviewing conduct of the medical profession. A classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse."
UC Berkeley law professor Stephen Sugarman, who specializes in medical malpractice, said the state report does not doom a potential lawsuit, which Dolan has said Jahi's family will file at some point.
"The report, while quite positive with respect to Children's Hospital, does not preclude a lawsuit for medical malpractice and with the needed evidence a jury could perhaps find that there was malpractice," he said. "Yet just because the tragic events occurred does not in itself prove malpractice."
Meanwhile, Jahi, now more than three months on a ventilator since being declared brain-dead, is doing better than she was while at the Oakland hospital, said Dolan, who added he's visited her at an undisclosed location.
"She has not had a miracle happen but she … is receiving the dignified care a beautiful young girl should (and) has a chance," Dolan said. "She has outlived all expectations. She's a fighter."
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.