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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has gotten her the feeding and breathing tubes that they had been fighting for.
Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl's family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken Jan. 5.
The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have gotten 28 days ago, when doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland first declared her brain dead.
Jahi underwent tonsil surgery Dec. 9, then began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest and being declared brain dead Dec. 12.
Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.
Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, said Monday that she is now being cared for at a facility that shares her family's belief that she still is alive.
The new facility has "been very welcoming with open arms," Sealey said. "They have beliefs just like ours."
Neither Dolan nor the family would disclose the name or location of that facility, which took the eighth-grader after a weekslong battle by her family to prevent Children's Hospital Oakland from removing her from the breathing machine that has kept her heart beating.
But medical experts said the ventilator won't work indefinitely and caring for a patient whom three doctors have said is legally dead is likely to be challenging because — unlike someone in a coma — there is no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.
The bodies of brain dead patients kept on ventilators gradually deteriorate, eventually causing blood pressure to plummet and the heart to stop, said Dr. Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has no role in McMath's care. The process usually takes only days but can sometimes continue for months, medical experts say.
"The bodies are really in an artificial state. It requires a great deal of manipulation in order to keep the circulation going," Vespa said.
Brain-dead people may look like they're sleeping, he added, but it's "an illusion based on advanced medical techniques."
Sealey, the girl's uncle, said Monday that Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, is relieved her persistence paid off and "sounds happier." He criticized Children's Hospital for repeatedly telling Winkfield they did not need her permission to remove Jahi from the ventilator because the girl was dead.
Sealey told reporters Monday that Jahi traveled by ground from Children's Hospital to the unnamed facility and there were no complications in the transfer, suggesting she may still be in California.
The $55,000 in private donations the family has raised since taking the case public helped cover the carefully choreographed handoff to the critical care team and transportation to the new location, Sealey said.
"If her heart stops beating while she is on the respirator, we can accept that because it means she is done fighting," he said. "We couldn't accept them pulling the plug on her early."
Meanwhile, an advocacy group is facing sharp criticism for using Jahi's case to try to raise money.
The nonprofit Consumer noted in an email solicitation that it fights for patient safety for families like Jahi's and that it had drafted a proposed November ballot measure that would raise medical malpractice award limits in California.
Dolan, the family attorney, is a board member of Consumer Attorneys of California, the prime group funding the ballot initiative to lift the cap on pain and suffering awards. But he said he was dismayed that Consumer Watchdog used Jahi's name as a fundraising tool.
"Using Jahi's case as an example is wrong and that is not what this case is about," he said in a text message to the Associated Press.
Hospital spokesman Sam Singer also criticized the use of Jahi's case for fundraising, calling it "tasteless and thoughtless."
Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Carmen Balber said the funds were being solicited for the organization's patient safety program, not the political campaign, and none of the money would go to the ballot measure.
"We thought we were being clear," she said. "This email has been construed in ways we didn't expect."
Consumer Watchdog's Christmas Eve email to supporters prominently mentioned the Jahi McMath case to support the need for its advocacy work and for lifting the state's 38-year-old cap on medical malpractice awards.
"Hospitals like Children's actually have an incentive to let children like Jahi die," the email 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."
If it gets on November's ballot and passes, the Troy & Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would raise the cap on medical malpractice awards to about $1.2 million, a limit that would increase based on inflation, said Bob Pack, chair of the campaign committee. He said the group has collected about 500,000 signatures and wants 300,000 more by March 25 to assure there are enough valid ones to qualify for the ballot.
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than a million Americans lost their unemployment benefits late last month, when a temporary federal program expired. Congress is debating whether to restore the aid for three more months.
A bill to do so cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday. But final passage remains unclear. Democrats say extending the aid would boost hiring and economic growth. But many Republicans say the benefits discourage the unemployed from seeking work and would widen the federal budget gap.
Some questions and answers about what's at stake for the U.S. economy:
Q. Who's affected?
A. Nearly 1.4 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months. No longer can people continue to receive checks longer than that. Hundreds of thousands of others will lose their benefits in coming weeks, when they, too, will max out on the six months of unemployment benefits that most states provide.
Q. What did the expired program provide?
A. Starting at the end of 2008, it gave unemployment payments to people who had exhausted their state benefits. In some cases, people were able to collect aid for nearly two years.
Q. Why have some Americans needed benefits for so long?
A. Mainly because the job market has remained weak even though the Great Recession officially ended more than 4½ years ago. Many Americans have been unemployed for well beyond six months. More than 5 million jobs were shed in 2009 alone. The national unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent to 7 percent. But of the 10.3 million people who are still unemployed, nearly half have been without a job for more than six months, according to the Labor Department.
Q. Do extended benefits help the economy?
A. Many economists say they do. Unemployment checks help cover the rent, groceries and gasoline for millions of financially squeezed Americans, according to congressional Democrats. It boosts consumer spending and reduces dependence on other government welfare programs. All that lifts the economy slightly. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in December that continuing the benefits for a full year would add 200,000 jobs and 0.2 percentage points to economic growth in 2014. To put that in context: The economy added an average of fewer than 200,000 jobs a month during 2013. That said, the economic benefit of a three-month extension would be much less.
Q. What about critics who argue that these benefits, in effect, pay people not to work?
A. Not quite. To receive benefits, an unemployed person is supposed to actively look for work. And supporters note that the checks average $256 a week, which still keeps things pretty close to the poverty line. Congress has renewed the extended benefits each year. But unlike previous yearlong extensions of the emergency benefits, this continuation would be for just three months.
Q. What's the cost to taxpayers?
A. Extending the benefits for three months would cost $6.4 billion. Most congressional Republicans don't want that sum tacked onto the budget deficit. So they plan to negotiate for additional spending cuts.
Q. What happens to people when they lose their unemployment benefits?
A. Many basically drop out of the economy. Some apply for Social Security disability benefits to get by, according to academic research. Because of changes to its system, North Carolina began cutting unemployment aid in July. The state's unemployment rate dropped from 8.8 percent in June to 7.4 percent in November. But that's not because lots of people suddenly found jobs. Since they were no longer receiving benefits, many discouraged workers gave up their search and were no longer counted as unemployed. So the state's unemployment rate fell for the wrong reason.
Q. But critics say extended unemployment benefits can actually hurt the economy. Why?
A. The argument is that extended benefits keep the unemployed on the sidelines, waiting for that perfect job that almost never materializes. Research shows that many employers ignore jobseekers with gaps of more than six months in their resume. When people are out of work that long, their skills start to erode, as does their earning potential, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director who has advised Republicans. He calls the program "a mixed blessing." Holtz-Eakin notes that unemployment benefits were created during the Great Depression to address temporary layoffs. It was never intended to be a job re-training or anti-poverty program, he says.