02.08.06

Not Dead Yet Seeks Probe of Haleigh Poutre Case

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:13 pm by Steve

I thought the Terri Schindler Schiavo situation was mishandled very badly. Apparently another case has come to light. This one is 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre of Massachusetts. Her stepfather allegedly burned her and beat her nearly to death with a baseball bat. Haleigh, in a coma, was kept alive by a feeding tube and ventilator.

The Massachusetts Department of Social Services wanted to remove Haleigh’s feeding and breathing tubes.
Even her biological mother (who had been deemed unfit to care for Haleigh and whose former boyfriend was accused of sexually abusing the child) wanted her to be put to death (transcript via Nexis/CBS Evening News):
CBS reporter SHARYN ALFONSI: This is Haleigh Poutre before, before her teeth were broken, before her tiny body was burned and before she was beaten, doctors say, into a vegetative state. You’re her mother.
Ms. ALLISON AVRETT (Biological Mother): Yes.
ALFONSI: What do you want for her?
AVRETT: I want her to rest.
ALFONSI: And right now?
AVRETT: She’s not. Being kept like that is not a life.
The only person who wanted Haleigh alive was her stepfather, who will likely be charged with murder if Haleigh dies.
Two days ago, Massachusetts’ Supreme Court ruled against Haleigh’s stepfather, saying it was ”unthinkable” to give the power to make a life-and-death decision to the man accused of putting Haleigh in a coma.
“Court: State can let beaten girl die,” the headlines trumpeted.
Just one small complication for all of those who, for whatever reason, were in such a rush to “let Haleigh die:”

Link to this article.

But there’s more.

Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights group, is calling for an investigation into what they characterize as the “shoddy medicine” that led to a court order for the removal of life-support from 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre just days after her admission to Massachusetts’ Baystate Medical Center with a severe brain injury. She is now responsive and interactive four months after being declared “virtually brain dead” and in an “irreversible coma.
“If the court order had not been appealed, Haleigh Poutre would now be dead, said Diane Coleman, Not Dead Yet’s founder and president.
Coleman said that specifically, investigations are imperative into : “How doctors at Baystate Medical could be so wrong in their “arrogant and hasty diagnosis” that Haleigh had “no chance of recovering cognitive or sensate functioning,” and that she “cannot hear, feel, or respond.” The doctors presented their diagnosis as established medical fact, whereas any prognosis following a brain injury must be provisional. These doctors must answer to charges of incompetence and negligence. Furthermore, have these doctors withdrawn life-support in similar circumstances in the past? Do they have expertise regarding brain injuries?”How the medical tests run after Poutre’s biological mother saw signs of responsiveness earlier this month could be so wrong. Accepting the test results as dispositive, doctors again told DSS that there was “not a chance” of recovery. A few days later, Poutre became responsive. These tests are obviously fatally flawed, and must not be read prognostically.”
How Baystate Medical could support the incorrect diagnosis just eight days after Poutre’s admission. Brain trauma specialist Dr. Douglas Katz of Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital recently said “I wouldn’t give up before a year.” Is giving up after eight days standard operating procedure at Baystate Medical ? Has this hospital and others in the state allowed other children with brain injuries to die under such rushed circumstances?”
Whether this rush to withdraw life support from brain injured patients is now accepted medical practice in the state of Massachusetts . The Baystate doctors doctors said that their recommendations were in line with established medical ethics. Perhaps we need some new ethics.”
How the Juvenile Court, and later the Supreme Judicial Court, could so naïvely accept medical testimony regarding life and death without additional investigation. People with disabilities have a lot of experience with medical hubris regarding the quality of our lives, and know firsthand how mistaken and prejudicial doctors can be. The courts must stop their slavish deference to “established medical opinion,” which is continually subject to critique and change.”
How the courts understand the concept of “dignity.” On Oct. 5, barely 3 weeks after Haleigh Poutre’s admission, a juvenile court judge ruled that her “dignity and quality of life would be most respected by withdrawing both the ventilator and the feeding tube.” Now that Poutre is responsive, does she have her dignity back? Or is she still at risk of being determined as living an undignified life? Haleigh Poutre and the people of Massachusetts deserve an open discussion.”
Not Dead Yet is the national disability rights organization that leads the disability community’s opposition to legalized assisted suicide, euthanasia and other forms of medical killings. 2-04-06

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