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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Haleigh Poutre

Update:
See this Boston Globe article. The girl's birth mother noticed signs last week that she seemed to be more alert, but says she has been told that she cannot talk to the media. In October!!! (she was admitted in September) MA got a ruling from a juvenile court allowing them to pull the ventilator and the feeding tube. They were stopped by legal filings by the stepfather who has been accused of beating her into this state. So they didn't hang around very long, did they? The birth mother has no legal rights over the child, so they can probably shut her up by denying visitation. From the article:
Monteiro said that doctors did not tell DSS, which has custody of Haleigh, that her condition had changed until yesterday afternoon. She also said the agency's decision to seek court approval to remove life support was based on the ''best diagnosis that we thought we had at the time."
...
Last fall, doctors described Haleigh as being in a persistent vegetative state and ''virtually brain dead," district court records said. Physicians said her brain stem was severely injured, leaving her unable to think or feel and in an ''irreversible coma," according to an opinion Tuesday by the Supreme Judicial Court.
...
Allison Avrett, Haleigh's biological mother, said yesterday that she saw improvements in a hospital visit last week, but was convinced by doctors and DSS workers that hand movements that she had seen were involuntary.
...
Avrett said she cannot give any more details about Haleigh, because the DSS has told her not to discuss the case.
...
John Gamelli, a family friend from Westfield, said he was told by Avrett yesterday that Haleigh was able to respond to commands, such as releasing an object from her hand when she was asked.
I'm pretty sure that the hospital will not be getting full reimbursement for her care from MA or the feds, so that alone is an obvious conflict of interest. The way this works in most states is that the hospital gets stuck for most of the cost of the care. On the other hand, the doctors weren't the ones going to court to pull the ventilator and feeding tube. It's impossible to predict who will improve and who won't, but the only thing that could be known for sure was that this child would be very expensive if she lived. It's all about money, and I quote from The Anchoress again:
A utilitarian society is one in which small, crabbed, self-important bureaucrats have won the day - wherein they have managed to dot every i and cross every t, and blot each entry before locking those valuable ledgers away. A utilitarian society may even have trains that run on time. But it is a society that is essentially empty because balanced books, as satisfying to the eye as they might be, do not bring love or goodness or generosity or philosophy or beauty to the world. And a soul (or a country) enslaved to their upkeep dies a dreary death - alone, unmourned and unsung.
See also Michelle Malkin. End Update

I am asking people to pray for Haleigh Poutre. Allegedly savagely beaten by her stepfather last September and left in a comatose state, the state of Massachusetts won a ruling allowing the state to take her off the ventilator and remove her feeding tube. This was based on a diagnosis by doctors that she was in a permanent vegetative state without hope of improvement:
Judges have impounded medical records and ordered attorneys and physicians involved in Haleigh's medical decisions not to speak publicly about the case, which has been heard as high as the Supreme Judicial Court. Some information has been released, however, through open court records involving Strickland's criminal case, and relatives and family friends have gathered some facts based on briefings by DSS and police.

Police records from late September describe Haleigh as being in a ''permanent vegetative state" with a sheared brain stem. Other court records refer to Haleigh as being ''virtually brain dead." As recently as last week, relatives who visited her said they saw a ventilator and feeding tube attached to her.
They took her off the ventilator, and she continued to breathe. Obviously her condition is slowly improving, and now her life is conditioned on whether society is willing to pay for her care. She is now reportedly moving somewhat, so the "sheared brain stem" is obviously not accurate. Lord only knows what was in those medical records and what testimony the court heard.

This is the next Terri Schiavo, and a huge moral test for our society, which did not protect Haleigh earlier and may now refuse to protect her yet again. You can be sure that the Lebensunwertig crowd does not believe that the girl should be fed. Legally, the state now has the right to remove her feeding tube, and that ruling was handed down by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

She was hospitalized September 11th, and by November 6th the state had already petitioned the courts to remove life support. The indecent haste was probably partly motivated by the desire to pull the ventilator before she started breathing on her own - to avoid exactly the moral dilemma which MA now faces. She is eleven. See The Anchoress about utilitarianism and the power of prayer:

Prayer is a force, and it has power.

There are things seen and unseen. Things corporeal and things spiritual. Things natural and supernatural. A society bent on utilitarianism serves only the seen, the corporeal, the natural, and neglects the things unseen - at great risk.

I know an atheist or a bureaucrat might not understand or accept this, but what is truly important and valuable to people, and to communities - and maybe even to a nation - often cannot be measured in flow charts and columns; it cannot be harnessed and tied down and made to conform to black and red accountant columns. It is not accountable. But we have seen the fruits of those socialistic societies which forget the supernatural. They flounder and inevitably fail. In Europe they are failing even as I write this.

A utilitarian society is one in which small, crabbed, self-important bureaucrats have won the day - wherein they have managed to dot every i and cross every t, and blot each entry before locking those valuable ledgers away. A utilitarian society may even have trains that run on time. But it is a society that is essentially empty because balanced books, as satisfying to the eye as they might be, do not bring love or goodness or generosity or philosophy or beauty to the world. And a soul (or a country) enslaved to their upkeep dies a dreary death - alone, unmourned and unsung.
Note also that The Anchoress also believes that this power is inherent in humanity's appeal to the divine and not rooted in any denomination:
I believe that a house of prayer - particularly a house of contemplation, but really any church - brings nothing but good to its surrounding communities, no matter if those communities do not ascribe to the religion. I would be as delighted to find a group of Buddhist monks moving into a small local (and fading) monastery as the I would be to see more nuns show up.

Comments:
I thought the Schiavo tragedy would have taught us a lesson.

Apparently not.
 
They have forbidden the birth mother to talk to anyone about the child's condition. According to a family friend, last week (before they pulled her off the ventilator) she was able to grab and release things with one hand.

As for teaching us a lesson, most people in this country believe it taught those terrible right-wing fundies not to interfere with the infinite wisdom of the judges.
 
I don't usually closely follow such disturbing news stories, but I've been following Haleigh's story and praying for her since her story first appeared. I read a comment from somewhere about allowing such patients the "dignity" of dying. It occurred to me that dignity is in the eye of the beholder because there is certainly no lack of dignity in this little girl's fight to live. There is no lack of dignity in her being the victim of monsters. People often see the need for having others attend to personal care as lack of dignity, but - really - there is no lack of dignity in having someone take care of personal matters because one has been beaten into a coma and needs assistance.

I keep praying that she'll come back and finally find a world that is kind to her.

The head of Massachusetts DSS has just been on the news, and he said they didn't have the medical expertise to know what questions to ask and they just listened to the doctors. That's how this kind of tragedy happens - people who don't think for themselves and instead "just listen to" someone else (doctor or no doctor).

Sometimes common sense and common decency are more important than a medical degree. Common sense tells most of us that a child has a better chance of getting better than an adult. Common decency would tell most of us that "finishing off" the job that the abusers started just seems criminal.

Government officials have said that nobody will be singled out for the situation. I assume that's because nobody was evil in this situation - just stupid. If this kind of thing is going to be prevented from happening again social workers and other professionals need to be screened for degree of common sense, integrity (honesty) and the ability to think for themselves.

I continue to pray for Haleigh and wish there were a way she could know how many people are sick about what happened to her. Again, maybe she'll get the chance to come back and see the real world - and not just the twisted, sick world she lived in before through no fault of her own.
 
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