Judge gives brain dead Calif. girl's family a reprieve

Last Updated Dec 30, 2013 10:58 PM EST

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A California judge on Monday ordered a 13-year-old girl who was declared brain dead to be kept on life support until Jan. 7.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ordered Children's Hospital Oakland to maintain Jahi McMath on a ventilator past the 5 p.m. Monday time that was set in a previous ruling.

The family wants to continue life support, saying there is hope for recovery. The family has been fighting to find a health care facility that will accept McMath, after two medical evaluations found she was brain dead.

Nailah Winkfield, the girl's mother, said she wept when she heard about the ruling and hugged relatives outside the hospital.

She said the delay was an answer to her prayers and a sign that she was right to keep fighting.  

"Who wants to know the date and the time their child would die?" she said. "I don't care what anyone has to say about what I'm doing... I have to do what is right for me and for Jahi."

She said she does not believe her daughter is dead because her heart is still beating. 

Sam Singer, a hospital spokesman, said it would comply with the judge's new order but would oppose any efforts by Jahi's family to convince a court that she is still alive and entitled to the same rights as a living person.

"We are hopeful we will be successful so this tragedy can end," Singer said. He also dismissed claims by Jahi's relatives that she has shown signs of life, saying any muscle activity was an involuntary muscle reflex.

Chris Dolan, the McMath family's attorney, told journalists gathered outside the hospital Monday afternoon that the case was about parents' right to chose how their children are treated, and he slammed the hospital for being "hellbent on ending this child's life."

"This child was sitting on death row until 5 o'clock today," said Dolan. "A piece of paper has saved her from extinction."

"I don't know why we have to fight this hospital, but it looks like we will have to continue to fight -- fight for that right to chose your child's healthcare," added Dolan.

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy at the hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily and went into cardiac arrest. Doctors declared her brain dead on Dec. 12 and wanted to remove her from life support.