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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Haleigh Poutre Update

According to her grandmother, Haleigh Poutre was able to speak somewhat in June and July and wrote her name on a tablet while her grandmother was visiting. That was six months after the MA Supreme Court's order allowing her death by dehydration, which contained the following language (see prior post):
The medical evidence is incontrovertible -- the child is in a persistent vegetative state and there is no medical treatment in the foreseeable future that can restore her cognitive abilities. No provision of medical ethics is violated by the order. As the GAL report notes: "To all extent and purpose [Sharlene] has already left this world consciously and subconsciously and the only real remaining question is under what circumstances she'll be allowed to leave it physically."
The MA SC was relying on the medical testimony it received, and the medical testimony it received was controlled by MA's DSS department. This lends credence to the grandmother's theory about why DSS has blocked her visits to Haleigh since July. DSS still has legal custody, but the grandmother is seeking to adopt. I think it is outstandingly cruel to stop Haleigh from receiving visits of relatives. Haleigh was the victim of severe abuse, but not by her grandmother or her birth mother.

This will not change the minds of anyone who ardently advocated Haleigh's death originally, because these types believe in killing people with significant disabilities, perhaps because they are terrified at the prospect of living that way themselves. I don't agree with them, and I don't think killing people with disabilities produces a happier, more secure, or more humane world. Most people who have known people with disabilities would agree with me.

See Texas Advance Direectives, and specifically this post, for some explanation of the types of conflicts of interests that can come into play when allowing this sort of closed-system decision making. Assistant Village Idiot is another blogger who has specific background in this area. In a comment to one of my earlier posts he said that one should not prejudge the MA DSS's performance in this case. It seems to me that they are racking up quite a record here. See AVI's recent post about interdepartmental issues and group dynamics for more background.

I find the grandmother's statements credible, because they agree with the head of DSS, who told the press that when he visited her shortly after DSS got the MA SC's death order, Haleigh was able to respond to verbal commands, such as picking out one stuffed animal out of two and handing it to someone on request. They also agree with the statements of a nurse in March (see prior post).

I think that Dr. M has written well about the recent news of brain scans done on a woman who was supposedly unconscious (diagnosed as PVS). These scans proved that she could understand words spoken to her, could process the information in spoken language, and could consciously follow requests made of her to think of certain things. (By the way, there have been several fMRI studies done in the US showing that supposedly unconscious patients were processing language too.)

We have no way to distinguish between who is unconscious and who is locked-in, and in Haleigh's case they didn't even try. DSS went to court within 8 days of her admission to the hospital to get her killed by removing her feeding tube and depriving her of liquids. I think this says a great deal about us.

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