Friday, January 27, 2006
Haleigh Is In The Franciscan Hospital For Children
The headline says "Comatose Girl Moved To Rehab Facility". In body of the article it says:
DSS received a second opinion on her medical condition this week from two pediatric neurologists and a medical ethicist, agency spokeswoman Denise Monteiro said.According to her biological mother (update - see below), she can move at least one hand. She's not paralyzed and she's not comatose and she's not vegetative. Note that it's a Catholic facility; the kid just got a chance for life. So now they talk about miracles....
"Based on the second opinion, it was decided that we should get her into rehab to get her assessed and working on some specific issues," Monteiro said.
Agency officials say Haleigh now is able to move her eyes in the direction where a sound is being made.
"There's so much absolute hope now," Monteiro said. "She's full of miracles and she's a fighter."
I was remiss in not posting this before. In a January 21st article, the Boston Globe noted that a family had already volunteered to take Haleigh:
Also yesterday, Peter Cornetta, a 53-year-old North Grafton man, said he and his wife have contacted the DSS in the past month seeking to adopt Haleigh. He said that he has worked as a foster parent for the DSS and that six years ago they adopted a daughter.There are families who adopt severely disabled children, and love them.
''This is all about getting her some dignity and compassion," he said.
And an update on her condition:
On Tuesday, the state's top child-protection official visited Haleigh for the first time at the Springfield pediatric intensive care unit, where she had been since September, and said he noticed her picking up toys on command and tracking his movement with her eyes.So the DNR order was lifted on Wednesday and they arranged for her to go to the rehab hospital, since she is obviously neither comatose or vegetative. See also this previous article in which the biological mother noted that she had noticed that Haleigh was responding to her the week before the decision was issued (for example, by releasing something on command), but DSS officials had told her it was involuntary reflex and not a sign of improvement. You have to wonder what the birth mother is thinking now.
You zlso have to wonder what the Massachusetts Supreme Court is thinking right now; they relied on whatever medical evidence DSS submitted to them in handing down their January 19th decision. Several members of the court wrote a separate concurrence asking the legislature to revisit its confidentiality laws for such circumstances. They thought such proceedings should be open to public review. Indeed, indeed.
There aren't villains in this story except for the people who beat, burned and starved Haleigh. This is a story about ugly reality and an entire legal process that did not protect the child's interests. I am sure that somewhere, hidden in this story, there are some very good nurses, good doctors, some dedicated social workers with lumps in their throats, and psychiatrists confronted with burdens to their personal and professional consciences. All of these people are in pain and it should not be presumed that they did not perform with their best judgment while using the limits of the resources at their disposal.
The improvement seems to have occurred after the tracheotomy and withdrawal of sedation. To make a medical decision about the level of consciousness in these cases based on a patient's behavior while sedated should not be standard practice, and doing so within two weeks is scientifically unfounded. We're all apt to be somewhat out of it while sedated; this is doubly so for patients who have suffered brain injuries.
A couple of years ago one 200 mg ibuprofen tablet would pretty much put me flat on my back in dazed sleep for 6-8 hours. Then it would result in numbness and clumsiness for nearly another 10 or 12 hours after I woke up, not to mention several days of outright amnesia. I can take one now and work and the following day I'll know what I was working on the previous day! Most sedatives are CNS suppressants, they may block pain but they also block other signals in your brain. When a neural network is recovering, the effective signal strength is low and such medications have a vastly disproportionate effect. BTW, I got that from my doctor, and I have to say that I have seen and felt the truth of his words.
I stand on my assertion that many bioethicists and "Death With Dignity" advocates are either historical ignoramuses or amoral fools. Either way, they will take us straight into the maw of the beast. We ourselves form the body of that beast when we follow our worst natures. The maw of that beast swallowed over 100,00 million people in the last century. They died in the camps in Germany, in Poland, fell in ditches in South America under the guns of private militias and public armies, expired in Siberia, in Mongolia, on the killing fields in Cambodia. They die now in Darfur. Must they die now in our hospitals?
There is no sane answer to life's ugly realities but human compassion. None. We may groan and even stagger under the burdens of compassion, but we do not die from it by the millions.