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Teenager's death followed several surgeries, cause unknown

As many New Yorkers know, surgery is a solution to many common ailments you. Most of the time those more routine surgeries are successful. But when doctors don’t do their jobs correctly, it can result in worsened conditions or even end in tragedy.

That could be the case of a troubling and headline-grabbing case involving a 13-year-old girl who went into the hospital to have surgery intended to correct her sleep apnea. The girl underwent several simultaneous surgeries before she unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and bleeding. She was later declared brain dead.

A heartbreaking legal battle erupted when the family denied the girl’s death insisting that because she still has a heartbeat, she is still alive. The family has not yet filed suit against the hospital and is currently focusing on whether there exists any possible way to save the child.

The primary problem complicating matters is that the girl has been declared dead, and the county coroner has issued a certificate of death. But he said that the cause of her death is missing from the document because no autopsy has been performed. This is because the girl’s body has been released to her family and moved to an unknown location, where she is receiving nutrients and antibiotics.

It does not appear clear at this point what brought about the girl’s surgical problems. It could have been doctor error, surgical error or just a natural problem that doctors could not have prevented. The girl’s uncle said the family might sue in the future, which could include requesting monetary compensation if they can prove mistakes were made by the hospital or its employees.

Source:, “Delay in Jahi McMath Autopsy Complicates Cause of Death Ruling: Experts,” Lisa Fernandez, Jan. 7, 2014

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