The Massachusetts Department of Social Services, now with a new name and an old M.O. tried at the beginning to kill Haleigh, and almost did. Perhaps it was to harvest spare parts, and perhaps it was to make a stronger case against her assailant, nevertheless, they tried and almost succeeded.
Not to learn their lesson, stubbornly they cling to the child as if she were their very personal property, and doing so, exceed the bounds of reason. That is how entrenched is their dark resolve even in the brunt of public exposure. Without explanation, they even refuse her natural birth mom even a glimpse at Haleigh. What is going on? We are grateful the mom has a high profile attorney like Wendy Murphy to help her.
You see Allison Avrett meeting her two regular children, aged 7 and 8, at the school bus stop. You see her walk them to a well-kept home with Halloween decorations out front. You see her watch one child coloring at the kitchen table, then pose for pictures, everybody acting like regular families do.
Now, Allison Avrett may, in fact, be a person so horrible as to deserve her fate: first losing her eldest child to the state, then being banished even from visiting that sick child in the hospital.
But if so, the State Department of Social Services, renamed the Department of Families and Children, has not revealed documents that say so. Nor has it given Avrett a reason for severing all relations between her and that child, well known as Haleigh Poutre, 14.
Pardon my cynicism. But here’s betting that if there is a reason, we’d know it.
Most of us know Haleigh’s wrenching tale. At age 4, the department took her - wrongly, as is now apparent - from Avrett, then placed her, wrongly, with an aunt who nearly beat her to death. Then the department, wrong again, went to court to remove Haleigh from life support, reneging after doctors reported she was breathing on her own.
Avrett has long maintained she was among the first, if not the first, to notice her child’s eyes following her about her hospital room. That was when the department still let Avrett visit Haleigh. But they stopped her visits more than two years ago. The department will not say why, citing Avrett’s pending suit arguing that Haleigh was wrongly taken in the first place.
Were there no pending suit, the department would still refuse to comment. This is how it operates: hiding behind court orders and child privacy claims when typically the point is protecting itself.
And nobody seems bothered, even in this outrageous case, when the department bungled to the point of Haleigh’s death, then has the gall to blacklist a mother without producing a shred of evidence.
Pardon my cynicism. But here’s betting none of this is about helping Haleigh. It’s about a longstanding department mindset that says, ‘we do what we want because we can, no accountability.’ It’s about what’s neater and less legally risky. Haleigh’s stepfather’s trial is pending. Plus Wendy Murphy, a relentless, media-savvy lawyer, represents Avrett. That surely worries department bureaucrats: What if Murphy doesn’t give up?
You ask Allison Avrett how she copes? “Day by day,” she says. “I have two other kids who need me. But yes, I would love to see Haleigh.” If she is eventually free for adoption, “I’d love to have her, me or someone from the family.”
Avrett is not perfect. She gave birth to Haleigh at 17. Her boyfriend took off. She struggled. For a while, she concedes, she was not a good mother. That was 10 years and two more children ago, more than half of Haleigh’s lifetime.
This undated file photo released from family shows Eluana Englaro, who fell into a vegetative state following a car accident in 1992. Two years later, doctors called her condition irreversible. The condition of Englaro at the center of a right-to-die case has worsened after she suffered a massive hemorrhage, doctors said Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008. Englaro has been in a vegetative state for 16 years and her father has led a protracted court battle to disconnect her feeding tube, insisting it was her wish. (AP Photo/Englaro family, HO, File)
ROME (AP) — The condition of an Italian woman at the center of a right-to-die case worsened after she suffered a massive hemorrhage, doctors said Saturday.
Eluana Englaro has been in a vegetative state for 16 years and her father has led a protracted court battle to disconnect her feeding tube, insisting it was her wish.
This summer a Milan court granted his request, setting off a political storm in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. Italy does not allow euthanasia, but patients have a right to refuse treatment.
Catholic and anti-euthanasia groups protested the ruling by leaving bottles of water in front of Milan's Duomo cathedral. Prosecutors appealed the decision and the father pledged not to disconnect the tube before Italy's high court weighed in.
Carlo Alberto Defanti, Englaro's doctor, told reporters gathered Saturday at a clinic in northern Italy that over the last two days Englaro had been bleeding from her uterus.
"It was a very abundant hemorrhage, which puts her life at risk," he said. "This afternoon it stopped. We can't make predications; if it doesn't restart she may recover."
Italian news reports said doctors had agreed not to give Englaro a blood transfusion.
Englaro was 20 years old when she fell into a vegetative state following a car accident in 1992. Two years later, doctors called her condition irreversible.
Her father, Beppino Englaro, has said she had visited a friend who was in a similar condition shortly before her accident and had expressed the will to refuse treatment if in the same situation.
The case has drawn comparisons here with that of Terry Schiavo, the American woman who was at the center of a right-to-die debate until her death in 2005. Schiavo's husband, who wanted her feeding tube removed against her parents' wishes, prevailed in a polarizing battle in the United States that reached Congress, President Bush and the Supreme Court.