Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old California girl, was declared brain dead after complications following a routine tonsillectomy at Children’s Hospital in Oakland on Dec. 9, 2013.
Doctors sought to have the girl removed from life support, but her mother won two court injunctions preventing the hospital from disconnecting the patient’s ventilator. The hospital and the family finally reached an agreement allowing the girl to be transferred to another facility that was willing to keep her on life support.
However, the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog has used the case as a pawn in political fundraising efforts for a ballot initiative to increase pain and suffering caps on California malpractice cases.
The group recently sent out an email from the organization’s president Jamie Court linking the case with the ballot initiative.
“Hospitals like Children’s actually have an incentive to let children like Jahi die,” read the letter. “If children who are victims of medical negligence live, hospitals are on the hook for medical bills for life, which could be millions,” Court wrote, alleging the $250,000 cap on damages is a relative bargain compared to a possible lifetime of care. The letter went on to ask for contributions to help with the organization’s “patient safety work.”
The email has been met with outrage from the Children’s Hospital Oakland, whose spokesman described it as “the most shameful and shameless political mailer I have seen in my career.”
Even the McMath family attorney, who supports raising the current cap, expressed displeasure at the mailing. The ballot initiative, which is slated for November 2014, aims to quadruple the current California malpractice cap.