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To: Ohioan from Florida; Goodgirlinred; Miss Behave; cyn; AlwaysFree; amdgmary; angelwings49; ...
More than any other time in history next year's election will determine whether disabled people like Terri and Haleigh get to live or die.

Two threads by me.

Girl's end-of-life case could haunt Romney (Haleigh Poutre)

During the CNN Republican debate in June, Mitt Romney — pressed on his switch from pro-choice to pro-life by Rick Santorum- declared: "I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end."

Romney has spent much of the last two presidential campaigns defending his evolving positions on abortion. But his stance on end-of-life issues, another perennial hot-button issue with the party's conservative base, has been far less scrutinized.

But Romney does have a history on the issue, and a controversial one at that. In 2005, aides to then-Massachusetts Gov. Romney pressed vigorously in court for a pull-the-plug order on a severely-beaten 11-year-old girl who appeared to be brain dead, only to rescind the request when the child unexpectedly emerged from a vegetative coma.

In late 2005, with the GOP fight over Terri Schiavo still fresh in the mind of party conservatives, Romney's social service department, presented with a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't scenario, petitioned the state's Supreme Court to remove life support for young Haleigh Poutre, who was sadistically, horrifically abused by her adoptive mother and stepfather for months.

When doctors examined the girl's brain stem, they were shocked to find it had sheared - an injury most often associated with high-speed car crashes.

In Sept. 2008, officials with Romney's Department of Social Services - admitting they ignored numerous signs the girl was being battered over a period of months — obtained custody of Haleigh, determined that the had "no possibility of regaining a meaningful existence" due to the extent of her brain damage, and began to consider judicial end-of-life options including removal of life support and feeding.

Haleigh's jailed stepfather, possibly trying to dodge murder charges if he was able to keep the child alive, objected; The girl's birth mother and another close relative supported the state's request to obtain a "do not resuscitate" order.

On Jan. 16, 2008, the state's highest court sided with Romney's DSS and gave permission for the removal of a respirator and feeding tube.

But a day after the decision, Haleigh regained consciousness and began responding to simple commands, to the astonishment of doctors at Baystate hospital in Springfield.

A few days later, Romney, who had remained mum on the case up until that point, was pressed by reporters to articulate a broader position on end-of-life, but demurred, telling them:

"My concern is with this young girl and her current status," he told the Boston Globe. "In light of reported improvements in her medical condition, it should be clear to everyone that no action should be taken to end this girl's life."

In the months that followed, Romney tapped a three-member panel to examine the Poutre case and offer recommendations. Their findings: Errors were made by caseworkers and state officials, in the future, would seek outside medical advice and conduct more thorough physical examinations prior to proceeding with any end-of-life requests of people in their care.

Romney implemented the suggestions and told reporters, "The process of deciding to remove life support for a child In state custody has been inadequate," adding, "We must implement a far more comprehensive and robust process."

But he didn't embrace several reforms proposed by right to life groups and the Schiavo family, including more stringent benchmarks for ceasing life-giving care and greater transparency for judicial proceedings involving such cases.

"We do not think the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, under Governor Romney, acted properly by going to the courts to seek permission to remove Haleigh's food and water (via feeding tube) and breathing machine," Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler, executive director of Terri's Life & Hope Network, a Florida non-profit, wrote in an email to POLITICO Thursday.

"Romney's campaign presents him with a prime opportunity to clarify his positions on crucial life issues. We hope Mitt Romney was encouraged by Haleigh's recovery and will vow to respect the dignity of all life, regardless of disability," he added.

A Romney spokeswoman declined to outline the former governor's overall philosophy on end-of-life cases but said, "Gov. Romney criticized the state's handling of the case, ordered an investigation and put in place safeguards to prevent it from happening again. His actions speak for themselves."

Andrea Saul, the spokeswoman, added: "Gov. Romney was the one who ordered an immediate investigation of Haleigh's case. He appointed a panel to review the entire case history. Once the panel completed their investigation, Gov. Romney ordered implementation of all of their recommended changes for future cases. These include requiring DSS to obtain a second opinion from a physician outside the institution where the child is being treated before any decision can be made on withholding life sustaining treatment as well as a requirement that DSS obtain more detailed medical information from the doctors in the case."

Haleigh Poutre is still recovering at a Catholic rehabilitation center from her injuries and new reports indicate that she has spoken with caregivers about the circumstances of her beating.

__________________________________________________

Wesley J. Smith: Dehydrating Brain Injured People to Death Still an Important Political Issue

Video shows Haleigh Poutre writing, feeding self

It is oft said that a society is judged by how it treats its weakest members. (Humans only. Animals are not members of the moral community. Their proper care is an important ethical issue, but irrelevant to this post.)  And there are no weaker among us than those who experience profound cognitive disability.

Former Governor Mitt Romney is taking some heat for the scandalous attempt made during his governorship, by Massachusetts bureaucrats, to dehydrate a then unconscious 11 year-old child abuse victim, named Haleigh Poutre, to death.  (I covered her case extensively here at SHS and in other media.  Had not dotting all the bureaucratic “i”s taken several months, Poutre would be dead today instead of in school!)  From the Politico story:

In 2005, aides to then-Massachusetts Gov. Romney pressed vigorously in court for a pull-the-plug order on a severely-beaten 11-year-old girl who appeared to be brain dead, only to rescind the request when the child unexpectedly emerged from a vegetative coma.

Well, that’s an unfair description.  As I recall the circumstance, those pushing for the dehydration were bureaucrats from the state social welfare agency, not personal aides of Romney, as Politico implies, pushed by doctors’ who declared her not worth maintaining within days of her savage beating. But, back to Politico:

On Jan. 16, 2008, the state’s highest court sided with Romney’s DSS and gave permission for the removal of a respirator and feeding tube. But a day after the decision, Haleigh regained consciousness and began responding to simple commands, to the astonishment of doctors at Baystate hospital in Springfield.

A few days later, Romney, who had remained mum on the case up until that point, was pressed by reporters to articulate a broader position on end-of-life, but demurred, telling them: “My concern is with this young girl and her current status,” he told the Boston Globe. “In light of reported improvements in her medical condition, it should be clear to everyone that no action should be taken to end this girl’s life.” In the months that followed, Romney tapped a three-member panel to examine the Poutre case and offer recommendations. Their findings: Errors were made by caseworkers and state officials, in the future, would seek outside medical advice and conduct more thorough physical examinations prior to proceeding with any end-of-life requests of people in their care.

Romney implemented the suggestions and told reporters, “The process of deciding to remove life support for a child In state custody has been inadequate,” adding, “We must implement a far more comprehensive and robust process.”

To be sure, but that begs an important question: Should tube-supplied hydration and nutrition ever be ordered removed by the state when it is medically appropriate, in other words, when it maintains life as opposed to those times at the verge of death when the body cannot assimilate sustenance.  I say no.  Anyone who dehydrated a dog would go to jail.  Were Osama bin Laden dehydrated to death over two weeks, instead of shot in the head, President Obama would be up on charges in the Hague.  And the symbolism of deciding that a human being isn’t worth feeding is just too denigrating. Yet, in America we routinely dehydrate the cognitively disabled, and it is shrugged off as medical ethics.

Dehydration raises a lot of issues and emotionality–and hence most politicians prefer to avoid it.   But events happen occasionally that force them to take a stand.

I recall when Congress rushed to pass “Terri’s Law,” which attempted to prevent Terri Schiavo’s dehydration based on the perceived need for the federal judiciary to independently investigate what were considered–and I think were–highly irregular state court proceedings in that case.  (The federal judge assigned to the case effectively refused comply with the law, and Terrie died slowly over 14 days, bleeding in her eyes at the end from hyper dryness.)  That law was later criticized harshly by Democrats–but only after polls showed it was unpopular.

Yet, when they could have stopped the legislation from becoming law, they didn’t.  Indeed, it would only have taken one U.S. Senator to prevent Terri’s Law from passing. Both (then) Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton acquiesced in the unanimous consent of the Senate.  So, did Harry Reid and every other Democratic senator.   (Obama later said it was his worst mistake as a Senator–when running against Clinton and after it was clear that Senator McCain would be the Republican nominee.  Such courage to say he did something “wrong” when his opponents had done the same thing.)

Dehydration remains an important ethical issue in the country precisely because it is a proper measure of our morality as a people.  And, it is one that can cut both ways politically. A society is judged by how it treats the least among us.

"We will not be silent.
We are your bad conscience.
The White Rose will give you no rest."

39 posted on 09/25/2011 12:40:03 PM PDT by wagglebee ("A political party cannot be all things to all people." -- Ronald Reagan, 3/1/75)
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To: wagglebee

Thanks for the ping!


40 posted on 09/25/2011 9:53:55 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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