Terri Schiavo's family joins fight to keep Jahi McMath on ventilator

The family involved in one of the most prominent right-to-life battles has joined another, in an attempt to keep 13-year-old Jahi McMath on a ventilator.

By Gabrielle Levy
Jahi McMath.
1 of 3 | Jahi McMath.

The family of Terri Schiavo, whose case became the epicenter of the battle between right-to-life and disability rights advocates, has stepped into the efforts to keep 13-year-old Jahi McMath on a ventilator.

Jahi was declared brain dead by doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland, Calif. last month, several days after a routine tonsillectomy went wrong.


Her family took her case to court in an attempt to keep the hospital from taking Jahi off her ventilator. A judge ordered the hospital to delay making any life-support decisions until after December 30, later extended to January 7, while a court-appointed physician agreed with the hospital's assessment that Jahi was brain dead and had minimal chance of recovery.

Schiavo's family, who run the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, agreed with Jahi's family in accusing the hospital of being "hell-bent" on ending the girl's life.

"Together with our team of experts, Terri's Network believes Jahi's case is representative of a very deep problem within the U.S. healthcare system -- particularly those issues surrounding the deaths of patients within the confines of hospital corporations, which have a vested financial interest in discontinuing life," the group said in a statement.


Jahi's family, which said it has found a long-term care facility in New York willing to take her, accused the hospital of refusing "to agree to allow us to proceed in that matter."

The hospital dismisses those claims.

"We have done everything to assist the family of Jahi McMath in their quest to take the deceased body of their daughter to another medical facility," said hospital spokesman Sam Singer.

"To date, they have been unwilling or unable to provide a physician to perform the procedures necessary, transportation, or a facility that would accept a dead person on a ventilator," Singer said. "Our hearts and thoughts go out to them in this tragic situation, but the statements being made by their attorney and some family members are misleading and untrue."

Singer said the judge dismissed the family's request for additional medical procedures, including keeping Jahi on a feeding tube.

Schiavo died in 2005, some 15 years after she collapsed in her Florida home and was diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state. After eight years of experimental treatments and therapy, her husband, Michael Schiavo, who was her legal guardian, tried to have her feeding tube removed, arguing Terri would not have wished to be kept alive in such a state. Her parents fought him, claiming Schiavo was responsive and aware, although physicians found no evidence to support that claim throughout seven years of court battles.


The case ultimately reached the Supreme Court, and even a law was passed in both houses of Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in an effort to keep her alive, but Schiavo's breathing tube was eventually removed in March 2005 and she was allowed to die.


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