Posted by: coastcontact | January 3, 2014

The Fight to Remain Alive

We all want to live a long time. Our families want us to live for a long time. Killers do everything they can to avoid a death penalty. Families do every thing they can to sustain the life of a loved one.

Jahi McMath

Jahi McMath’s death at the age of 13 is a shock that would send any parent into denial. If her heart is beating she must be alive is a reasonable conclusion. Can she somehow recover? Let’s pray. G-d will answer.

Jahi McMath

When someone in your family is ill and faces the possibility of death, hospitals will ask on their medical questionnaire for you to choose:

______ (a) Choice NOT to Prolong Life

I do not want my life to be prolonged if (1) I have an incurable, and irreversible condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time, (2) I become unconscious and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, or (3) the likely risks and burdens of treatment would outweigh the expected benefits, OR

  ______ (b) Choice to Prolong Life
I want my life to be prolonged as long as possible within the limits of generally accepted health-care standards.
Most people want to live if there is any reasonable hope of recovery.

I have notarized this document hundreds of times.

Terri Schiavo

Terri Schiavo with her mother, in 2001

In February of 1990 at the age of 26, Terri Schiavo collapsed at home and oxygen was cut off to her brain for several minutes. The cause of the collapse is disputed. Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, blames a cardiac arrest induced by a potassium imbalance associated with bulimia.
Though severely brain-damaged, Terri Schiavo breathed and maintained a heart beat and blood pressure on her own. While her vision is impaired, she could not see or move her limbs. But she needed a feeding tube connected to her stomach to sustain her life.

Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, went to court to keep her “alive” using the feeding tube.

 In 1991, Michael Schiavo flew his wife out to California for experimental therapy involving electrodes. He returned discouraged with the outcome, however. Therapy was discontinued and Terri Schiavo was relocated by her husband to one nursing home and then another before ultimately being moved to a hospice in 2000.

The Terri Schiavo case was a legal struggle involving prolonged life support in the United States that lasted from 1990 to 2005. The issue was whether to carry out the decision of the husband of Teresa Marie “Terri” Schiavo to terminate life support for her. Terri was diagnosed by doctors as being in a persistent vegetative state. The highly publicized and prolonged series of legal challenges presented by her parents and by state and federal legislative intervention effected a seven-year delay before life support finally was terminated.

Nailah Winkfield, Jahi McMath’s mother, has every right to pray for a wonderful outcome. It’s just not likely.



  1. An erroneous decision to terminate artificial nutrition and hydration, to be sure, will lead to failure of that last remnant of physiological life, the brain stem, and result in complete brain death. An erroneous decision not to terminate life support, however, robs a patient of the very qualities protected by the right to avoid unwanted medical treatment. His own degradedexistence is perpetuated; his family’s suffering is protracted; the memory he leaves behind becomes more and more distorted.

  2. The lack of blood flow to the brain resulted in a condition diagnosed as a persistent vegetative state . Her husband and her parents became locked in a lengthy legal battle over whether to keep her alive. Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his brother President Bush sided with the parents, who believed their daughter was responsive. Despite a special law passed to prevent her death, the courts finally upheld the Guardianship Court’s authorization of Michael Schiavo’s decision to terminate her life support on March 18, 2005, and she died of starvation and dehydration within two weeks.

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