Haleigh Poutre was given a death sentence by doctors who said she was "virtually brain dead" and in a "hopeless" state of "persistent vegetation".
The eleven year-old was hospitalized after her stepfather allegedly burned her and beat her unconscious with a baseball bat. Less than three weeks later, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services pushed to remove Haleigh's feeding tube and respirator and won approval from the State Supreme Court to so.
Well, the young girl fought, and she lived. Today, she is in a rehabilitation facility.
Despite her "hopeless" condition, and her status as "virtually brain dead", she reportedly began showing signs of improvement and was weaned off her ventilator. The week before the SJC ruled on Jan. 17 that life support could be removed, DSS ordered a new round of tests on Haleigh after her biological mother visited and described the girl as being responsive.
However, in the court (and courts) of life and death, this little girl could be the next Terri Schiavo.
Wesley J. Smith writes:
In most states, exhibiting consciousness is not a defense against dehydration for profoundly impaired patients. Indeed, cognitively disabled people who are conscious are commonly dehydrated throughout the country. So long as no family member objects, the practice is deemed medically routine.Related:
How can this be? The simple answer is that tube-supplied food and water — often called "artificial nutrition and hydration" (ANH) — has been defined in law and in medical ethics as an ordinary medical treatment. This means that it can be refused or withdrawn just like, say, antibiotics, kidney dialysis, chemotherapy, surgery, blood pressure medicine, or any other form of medical care. Indeed, removing ANH has come to be seen widely in medicine and bioethics as an "ethical" way to end the lives of cognitively disabled "biologically tenacious" patients (as one prominent bioethicist once described disabled people like Terri Schiavo and Haleigh Poutre), without resorting to active euthanasia.
(...) The court could still order her to die slowly, over two weeks, of dehydration despite her being awake and aware. And the supreme court of Massachusetts could still give final approval to the decision. Such is the sad state of medical ethics and the law in the United States of America.