Sad saga of Jahi McMath made sadder by family’s lawyer, readers say

Attorney Christopher Dolan, left, representing the family of Jahi McMath, with Omari Sealey, Jahi's uncle, during a new conference this month. In a recent Times Op-Ed article, Dolan blasted critics of Jahi's family.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

On the troubling case of teenager Jahi McMath being kept on a ventilator despite doctors’ declarations that the 13-year-old is dead, I’ve written before that most of the reader reaction has been compassionate toward her parents but unsparingly critical of the outside groups and the lawyer making a cause celebre out of the situation.

Now that the lawyer -- Chritopher Dolan -- has penned a stinging rebuttal in The Times to his critics and the critics of Jahi’s family (he calls those critics “self-righteous”), readers are once again coming down hard on him. A few are even growing less patient with the parents, and some note the biological processes about setting in that will further prove Jahi is dead.

Here are some of those letters, a few of which may be printed in The Times later this week.

Manhattan Beach resident Charles Reilly says Dolan has given his clients poor counsel:


“After reading Dolan’s article, it’s easy to identify the true culprit in this sad case: Dolan himself.

“Nearly all Americans can sympathize with the family over Jahi’s irreversible condition. What they do not care for is a lawyer who, through his own self-interest, has given this poor family bad advice and prolonged their agony.

“This case has nothing to do with personal rights; it has everything to do with being honest to one’s clients. No one can blame Jahi’s mother for fighting for the life of her child. But as painful a duty as it is, Dolan should have long ago explained to her that there is no real life left in her child. God does not have her heart beating. Sophisticated medical equipment has kept her heart beating.

“The child will never recover, and Dolan must know this to be true. Hopefully, this tragic situation will soon resolve itself through the natural order of things and Dolan can then, as he wishes for Jahi’s family, disappear from the public spotlight.”

Thousand Oaks resident Mark Diniakos questions Dolan’s sincerity:

“Dolan’s plea to let Jahi’s family ‘disappear from the public spotlight’ leads to this obvious response: If that is his sincere wish for them, why write an Op-Ed piece for The Times?”

Gary Dolgin of Santa Monica says there’s no right to keep a dead person hooked to a ventilator:

“Self-promotion evidently trumps logic in Dolan’s sanctimonious screed.


“Among the more outrageous of Dolan’s contentions is his conflation of contraceptive and abortion rights with the purported ‘rights’ to keep a brain-dead relative hooked to a respirator indefinitely.

“That argument wouldn’t fly in the antiabortion redoubt of Texas. There, a constitutionally dubious state law is being used to keep a pregnant brain-dead woman on a ventilator -- in an ill-considered effort to render her fetus viable -- contrary to advance-directive wishes she and her husband expressed.

“Whatever one’s religion, she should have no right to contravene a standard for determining death universally accepted by this country’s physicians.

“But Dolan is right about one thing: Jahi’s family needs to ‘disappear from the pubic spotlight.’ And that will happen as soon as the family removes Jahi from her ventilator.”


Devra Mindell of Santa Monica takes a swipe at religiously motivated laws that contravene science:

“Dolan refers to an anomalous New Jersey statute providing for personal religious belief to supersede medically sound determination of brain death -- as if that legal aberration merits serious consideration elsewhere.

“What he doesn’t disclose is that New Jersey’s law was passed in 1991 at the behest of a tiny religious minority and, after 23 years, only one other state has enacted anything similar to that law. A similarly ill-conceived, religiously prompted law, in force in Rhode Island for centuries, allows uncles to marry their nieces if they are part of that same religious minority. No other state allows incestuous unions of this sort.

“Dolan’s harangue hardly helps his clients. Rather, it serves to emphasize the importance of keeping religion out of statehouses and hospitals.”



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