Guardian Decides to End Jason Childress’ Life

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 9, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Guardian Decides to End Jason Childress’ Life

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 9, 2003

Charlottesville, VA ( — A court-appointed guardian on Monday decided to end the life of Jason Childress, the man at the center of a legal battle between family members who can’t agree on his fate.

Jason has been in a coma since July 16 and was nearly removed from life support prematurely when the University of Virginia Medical Center failed to provide two weeks notice to his family before doctors gave up and wanted to pull the plug.

Jason’s father Jerry was able to get help from a local attorney, David Schreve, to delay ending Jason’s life until a court could appoint a guardian to make the decision about Jason’s fate.

The family has been embroiled in a dispute as to whether Jason should live or die.

On one side is Jerry Childress, Jason’s stepmother and her family, a brother and the mother of one of his children — who want to continue life support. On the other side is his mother, Theresa Spencer, his sister and the mother of his other two children — who want let Jason die.

The court appointed Herbert Pickford, a retired Charlottesville Circuit Court judge, to serve as Jason’s guardian.

In an interview with, Katrina Childress, Jason’s stepmother, said she was informed of the Pickford’s decision to remove life support while visiting Jason at UVA medical center.

"The guardian based the decision on talking to Jason’s other family members and the fiance’," she said. Katrina said they claim Jason told them he would not want to be kept alive.

However, Jerry and Katrina have visited Jason on a daily basis since his automobile accident. They say he is responding to them and has clearly indicated he wants to live.

"I have been working with Jason to get him to respond to commands," Katrina told "He is successfully responding."

Katrina asked Jason to raise his finger to tell her if he wanted to remain alive and receive medical treatment.

"Jason has raised his finger several days in a row and several times a day," she said.

Katrina also said Jason would have told his brother or father if he wanted to be removed from life support. She said Jason was very supportive while her father was dying from cancer — he never stopped helping or gave up hope.

Schreve has told the family members supporting Jason’s treatment that there are no legal options available to them. A spokesman for Governor Mark Warner (D) said the governor would not intervene.

Katrina had been recording some of the responses Jason has given and some of the interaction she has had with him — including Jason’s response indicating he wanted to live.

That was until the hospital stepped in and prohibited it.

Katrina said the hospital told Jerry and her that the attending physician would have to approve the recording. Later officials told the family the guardian would have to approve. After they were approached a third time, hospital staff told Katrina tape recording a patient was illegal.

Asked whether the recordings were shown to Pickford prior to his decision, Katrina said he saw them. But they didn’t affect his decision.

"He showed no response, no emotions, no expressions," Katrina told

Jason is in a similar situation as Terri Schiavo in that physical therapy was discontinued very early on.

Jerry and Katrina are trying to determine whether or not they will be able to have visitation before Jason is removed from life support. Katrina says that decision is up to the attorney for the family members who support ending Jason’s life.

Whether they are there or not, Katrina hope Jason fights every step of the way.

"We pray that Jason breathes on his own."