U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu will oversee a mandatory settlement conference between representatives of Children's Hospital Oakland and the family of Jahi McMath, U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown said. Settlement conferences are usually arranged to expedite court cases or to end them without a trial.
The hospital and Jahi's mother are locked in a harrowing clash over the girl, who went into cardiac arrest while recovering from the Dec. 9 surgery and shows no signs of brain activity, according to court records.
Children's maintains that Jahi is legally dead and that the ventilator keeping her heart pumping should be removed, but a state judge has ordered doctors to keep breathing machine in place until Jan. 7 at 5 p.m.
The girl's mother, Nailah Winkfield, wants to transfer her to another facility and to force the hospital either to fit Jahi with the breathing and feeding tubes she would need to be moved safely or to allow an outside doctor to perform the surgical procedures.
The hospital's lawyer, Douglas Straus, maintains that Children's Hospital staff has no legal obligation to operate on the body of a dead person, but that the matter remains irrelevant for now because the family has not named a doctor who is willing to put in the tubes or a facility capable of caring for Jahi.
The procedures are likely to figure prominently in Friday's talks. Ryu, the magistrate, told the two sides to be prepared to spend the entire day working toward an agreement and to present her with confidential memos outlining their respective demands.
The issue of the tracheostomy and gastric tubes also is being considered by the state judge who so far has blocked Children's Hospital from removing Jahi's ventilator. Alameda County Superior Court Evelio Grillo has scheduled a hearing for Friday morning so he can speak with the opposing parties about how to handle that part of the case.