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Stepdaddy dearest

A rather ugly case is playing itself out in Westfield, Massachusetts right now. 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre is in a hospital following a horrific beating. She is on life support, and doctors say she will never recover (pending a miracle) -- her brain stem has been sheared off. They use terms such as "brain dead" and "persistent vegetative state" to describe her condition, and she is sustained by a respirator and a d feeding tube.

Even before the attack on last September 11, Haleigh hadn't lived a happy life. After her mother was ruled an unfit parent, she wsa given to her mother's older sister for raising. She lived with the aunt and the aunt's husband, who became her stepfather. Her grandmother also helped in her raising.

Last September, though, Haleigh was brought to the hospital in an "unresponsive state." Police believed she had been beaten, and arrested her adoptive parents. Shortly thereafter, the aunt and grandmother were found dead in the aunt's home in what police believe was a murder-suicide, but are uncertain who killed who. The stepfather, Jason Strickland, is accused of assault.

Doctors, state officials, and Haleigh's birth mother and her surviving grandmother all support removing the life support, and allowing Haliegh to pass on with dignity.

Unfortunately, the one person who has the legal authority to allow such actions is her stepfather -- who is facing charges for putting her in that state, and who could be charged with murder if she dies.

It's an ugly case, with echoes of the Terri Schiavo case. But I don't think there should be any changes in law over it. Right now it's in the hands of a judge, who will decide whose wishes should be followed -- and the fact that Strickland has a decided self-interest in sustaining Haleigh's body for as long as possible should be a major factor.


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» The Useless Tree linked with A Sad Story with Ethical Implications

Comments (19)

Someone there in Mass. shou... (Below threshold)

Someone there in Mass. should make sure Mr. Strickland dies a horrible death, and then we can put the echoes of Terri Schiavo off for another day.

Echos of Schiavo, but witho... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

Echos of Schiavo, but without much ambiguity.

I suspect at some point they terminate his rights, and his ability to make that decision will be gone.

I hate to be the one to dru... (Below threshold)

I hate to be the one to drudge up Schiavo, but the hubbub there was that she wasn't clearly in a persistent vegetative state. She was so severely brain damaged she was close to the state. The irksomeness of that case for me and many others is that is was a 'gateway' case for allowing the plug to be pulled on those mentally impared and not just those in a persistent vegetative state.

Here, I don't know enough about her condition to know if she is in such a state or seems to be in such a state.

I guess it all depends on the what 'the meaning of persistent vegetative state is'. And is if the definition is a living term.

There was ambiguity in the ... (Below threshold)

There was ambiguity in the Schiavo case?

jpm100: In your opinion, wh... (Below threshold)

jpm100: In your opinion, what the ambiguity in the Schiavo case.

The issue (IMO) in the Schi... (Below threshold)

The issue (IMO) in the Schindler-Schiavo case, was that the "husband" had more than just an "interest" in Terri being removed from life support. He was a suspect in her condition, she had a life insurance policy (that would pay to him), and he was LIVING WITH ANOTHER WOMAN whom he FATHERED CHILDREN WITH. This, while it does "echo" Schiavo some what, is totally different. If her brain stem has been shorn off, she will only recover by a miracle, whereas Terri was showing some brain activity, much as an infant would show. Basically, if the step-dad is a suspect in the case, his rights SHOULD be removed, but if her bio-mom was deemed unfit, those "rights" should flow to the next of kin who is NOT the step-dad or bio-mom.

Sorry, IMHO, the Schiavo ca... (Below threshold)

Sorry, IMHO, the Schiavo case is not relevant to this one.

Unfortunately, this event is not entirely uncommon. Some rather high profile cases even prompted this from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The idea of being released ... (Below threshold)

The idea of being released with dignity is an idea that reflects our own fear of death. As no human can escape death, many study ways to die as being honorable, dignified, respectfull. Yet these are attributes for the living. Not the dead.

Must we fear death so much that those who are going to die not be burdened with having to behave or act a certain way to prove their strength or in other cases where there is no real person left, what does the dignity matter,

I believe , if the brain is dead, there is no issue to keep alive

To quote/paraphrase a ficti... (Below threshold)

To quote/paraphrase a fictional TV MD:

"There is nothing dignified about death in any form. Live your life with dignity."

Doesn't sound like the heart-lung preparation described in this case is living a dignified life. Anyone want to argue that?

Let Terry Schiavo RIP, for God's sake.

This looks to me to be a "S... (Below threshold)

This looks to me to be a "Shaken Baby Syndrome" case...brain damage resulting from violent shaking (albeit beating). What I find sad is where is the state in this? My sister works for the Illinois Department of Children's Services [DCFS] (as an investigator) and all too often looks into cases such as these. Her job is to determine whether an injured child should be removed (or returned) from/to a parent when investigating a child injury. She all too often has to investigate these incidents and make a recommendation to the state about the furure custody of an injured child. I think in this case, the state investigator would call it shaken baby and recommend that the state take custody. I believe that family court could terminate the rights of the stepfather and give it to a living relative who could then make that life or death decision....... But, then again, maybe she really did jump off the roof of the house (run out into the street, fall down the stairs, slip and fall in the bathtub, tumble out of a tree, fall off the bed, etcetera, etcetera)

I am not an MD or JD, but a DBA and that is just my opinion.

I think jocrazy0 is right. ... (Below threshold)

I think jocrazy0 is right. My wife works for the Department of Social Services in Mass., and they're in court all the time terminating parental rights for things much less severe than nearly beating a child to death. I'm not an expert, but I don't think this guy will have control over the situation for long.

Why are we dredging up Schi... (Below threshold)

Why are we dredging up Schiavo in connection with this case? There are two very clear and distinct differences that make the two cases incomparable. First, Miss Poutre is clearly brain dead while Mrs. Schiavo was not. Second, Miss Poutre is on a respirator which is very clearly life support while Mrs. Schiavo was only being fed and watered.

Yes there are some major di... (Below threshold)

Yes there are some major difference. Like Shiavo was a "good" trajedy for politicians to use for political brownie points.

The authorities should conc... (Below threshold)

The authorities should concede that the death of this unfortunate girl should not be used to construct a “felony murder” case against the perpetrator. I say this not out of sympathy for the one who did this, but out of a desire to clearly separate the disconnect case from the criminal case.

The perpetrator, who is alleged to be the stepfather, can certainly be charged with a serious felony for the injuries to this girl. He also possibly could be charged in the death of other family members.

In order that she not be kept alive merely to avoid a murder charge, let’s separate the issues!

Say just hang the guy who h... (Below threshold)

Say just hang the guy who had gut to do this to a little helpless girl

In reading all these postin... (Below threshold)

In reading all these postings, I really must say that I am surprised at how nobody has mentionned this poor girls horrible 11 year existence on this planet. She was born to a mother that beat her, taken from that unsafe environment by social services, and placed in an even worse one where she endured years of abuse. Didn't anybody see this happening? School teachers, friends, other family members...

I am not too worried about her step father- either murder or assault, he's going to jail and there's some special treatment waiting for him there - and (for those that believe in it) when he meets his maker...

I hope that she dies peacefully and endures no more pain...may god forgive those that turned a blind eye and could have helped...

Gee, this is the saddest th... (Below threshold)

Gee, this is the saddest thing. That poor little girl. And, the baby sitter, too. . . majoring in child development and admits also hitting Haleigh and not reporting the "parents"' beatings. She should be tried, too.

What a sad sad life for this little girl. I really can't stop thinking about this poor child.

He doesn't have a legal ... (Below threshold)

He doesn't have a legal right to her. He never adopted her. He is fighting a losing battle. She did, that's for sure. The crap that his lawyer says, that he's not doing this to avoid being charged with her death? Give Me a Break!!! How stupid do they think we are! It's so obvious why he's doing it! I hope he rots in hell for what he put that sweet little girl through!

This little girl lays in a ... (Below threshold)

This little girl lays in a hospital waiting to go to heaven. She is technically gone. The brain stem is sheared and being sheared it doesn't allow her to think, hear, or speak. I know I have read in other posts talking about Teri Shiavo and shame on those who don't think she should be remembered. I am glad to read people still think about her. Teri died horribly because she could salivate, she could swallow (that was hidden), she could even smile at times. Teri was not on a resperator and one does need part of the brain to breath, have a heart beat, and show that all her organs were healthy. The little girl in question is on a resperator and being fed by tube and IV for fluids. Taking all those things away are truly having her go to heaven because she basically is "dead". She won't curl up in a fetal position and cling to a teddy bear like Teri Shiavo did when she left the world. Haleigh Poutre's condition is what it is, no miracle will save her. The step father only shows to me a coward that doesn't want to face murder charges. He knows if she dies, his sentencing gets worse. If he was a good step father, this story would not be talked about today. We need to help this little girl pass onto the other side, so she can take gods hand and be where she is loved. She is trapped in the middle of basically "nothing" and no one should fight this little girls right to be free.






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