Terri Schiavo's Family Joins Fight for Teen on Life Support

Wednesday, 01 Jan 2014 10:38 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A foundation started on behalf of Terri Schiavo, whose case sparked a national right-to-die debate, says it's been secretly helping the family of of a 13-year-old brain dead California girl fight to keep her on life support.

The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network said in a statement it's been involved in the case of Jahi McMath in "relative silence," as her family searched for a long-term care facility to care for her.

McMath's family says it found a facility in New York; doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland assert there's no hope for her recovery. She was declared brain dead after complications from a routine tonsillectomy Dec. 12.

"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 foundation said.

Schiavo's case sparked a national debate in the '90s as doctors, lawyers and family members battled over whether to remove Schiavo's feeding tube. She died in 2005, nearly two weeks after doctors removed the device.

In the foundation statement about McMath, Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo's brother and executive director of the organization, noted: "Families and individuals must make themselves aware of what so-called 'brain death' is and what it is not. 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."

On Tuesday, a judge extended Jahi's life support an hour before a federal court order keeping the hospital from unhooking her was set to expire. The deadline was extended to Jan. 7.

McMath family lawyer Christopher Dolan said Wednesday he's fighting for a tracheostomy for Jahi.

"However, many surgeons and hospital administrators are on holiday making our goal difficult to reach," he said in a statement posted on the foundations website.

"If Children's Hospital Oakland would perform the procedure we could quickly move Jahi to a facility that provides innovative world-class treatments, of the type being given to Prime Minister Sharon in Israel."

Dolan pleaded for a specialist to step forward "and give this mother the choice and this child a chance."

Children's Hospital Oakland declared last week it "does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice," ABC News reported.

Omari Sealey, Jahi's uncle, said Wednesday the family still hopes to move her to another facility, CNN reported.

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