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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Terri Schiavo’s Family Stands With Jahi’s



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The struggle over Jahi McMath continues to grow more angry and portentous.  

Now, Terri Schiavo’s family and the Life Legal Defense Foundation–I am very close with both–and others have entered the fray. They are pulling no punches. From the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network press release:

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.

“Families and individuals must make themselves aware of what so-called ‘brain death’ is and what it is not,” said Bobby Schindler, Executive Director with Terri’s Network. “Additionally, families and individuals must educate themselves regarding their rights as patients, the advance documentation that must be completed prior to any medical procedure as well as how to ensure best any patient’s rights.”

“Every person needs to understand that medical accidents happen every day. Families and individuals must be more aware of the issue of accountability and patient rights.”

We continue to work toward Jahi’s transfer.

I understand why the family and the LLDF would take this position. After the infamy of what happened to Terri, they are naturally going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any family striving to save a loved one against all hope.

But I also think it is very important to reiterate the differences between the tragic circumstances of Terri Schiavo and Jahi McMath. Terri was unquestionably alive–even though some erroneously called her brain dead as a moral denigration. For example, she breathed on her own and swallowed her saliva.

If–IF–the three doctors who examined Jahi are correct, she is deceased–not as a moral denigration but as a biological condition. But for the ventilator, she would stop breathing instantly because there would be no impulses from her brain causing the diaphragm to contract and expand and the lungs to breathe in and out. That would lead to an immediate cardiac arrest.

Some might ask, what is the harm of being extra sure? Very little since brain dead people can almost never be maintained indefinitely. 

I will say this: If Jahi was misdiagnosed as dead when she is actually alive and deeply unconscious, there will be hell to pay. Not only for Children’s Hospital but generally for the mistrust that would sow in the health care system at a time when many among the Medical Intelligentsia want the naked power to coerce compliance with their treatment decisions and moral views.  



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