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Cindy, Grace, and Scott

(Live Action) — A hospital accused of intentionally killing a teenage girl with Down syndrome has lost its last chance to dismiss, and the case will now move forward, in what her family says is a “first-of-its-kind” jury trial.

Earlier this year, the tragic death of Grace Schara came to light. In 2021, Grace died at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital; she had been given a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order without her or her family’s knowledge or consent; additionally, she was administered a cocktail of drugs – Precedex, Lorazepam, and Morphine – which are known to cause hypoxia, or low levels of oxygen in body tissues.

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Grace had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but her family said she had been doing relatively well, despite being in the hospital. Yet they said hospital staff repeatedly tried to force ventilation on Grace without their consent, even as tests came back normal, indicating she didn’t need to be ventilated. Eventually, her parents were banned from being in her room at all. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring the right to an advocate, and though her sister was on-site to serve as that advocate, Grace’s family said the staff made decisions for her supposed treatment without consulting them.

“No doctor or nurse came to me and said anything they were doing,” Grace’s sister, Jessica Vander Heiden, said. “I had to overhear what they were saying. They were just making decisions on their own, without even communicating with Grace’s power-of-attorney, which was my mother.”

On her last day alive, she was given lorazepam and morphine, though she had already been receiving Precedex for four days; Precedex is not supposed to be used for more than one day. “They gave Grace a combination of drugs that none of us could have survived,” Scott Schara, Grace’s father, said.

When Grace’s sister noticed Grace’s hands growing cold, she told the nurses, but was ignored; Grace soon had no pulse, and her eyes were rolling back in her head. Though her sister begged nurses to intervene, they did nothing, and Vander Heiden had to sit by, helpless, as Grace died at the young age of 19.

In Schara v. Ascension Health et al., a lawsuit alleges that five doctors illegally defied informed consent laws, and that they – along with two nurses – committed battery when Grace was killed.

According to the press release announcing the latest development, because the allegations against the hospital involve battery, this will be “the first time that doctors’ intentions come into play in this manner in a civil case.” Though attorneys for the hospital repeatedly tried to have the claims dismissed, Judge Mark J. McGinnis refused them all. “This case is ready to be tried in November,” he said.

It’s a decision applauded by Grace’s father.

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“Our victory today to secure a jury trial for the battery claim in Schara v. Ascension et al. isn’t just our next step toward justice for Grace,” he said in the press release. “It’s a playbook for all Americans who have lost loved ones at the hands of what I, and many others, believe to be a medical establishment dangerously committed to harm – more concerned with incentives and penalties than patient health.”

“Our case simply surviving today should send shockwaves across the nation, because we showed how to pierce the medical malpractice veil with a legal brief. Winning this claim will create a tidal wave – and a game-changing legal precedent.”

Reprinted with permission from Live Action