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January 18, 2006

Boston Court OK's Pulling Plug On Comatose 11-Year-Old

Reverse Terri Schiavo?:

Massachusetts's highest court ruled Tuesday that the state can withdraw life support from Haleigh Poutre, an 11-year-old girl who has been in a coma since September, and whose adoptive mother and stepfather are accused of abusing her.

Haleigh, of Westfield, Mass., was hospitalized on Sept. 11 with a brain injury and multiple bruises, burns and cuts. Her aunt Holli Strickland, who adopted her, and Ms. Strickland's husband, Jason Strickland, were charged with assault, but Ms. Strickland died in an apparent murder-suicide after charges were filed.

The state Department of Social Services, which was granted custody of Haleigh, successfully petitioned a juvenile court for permission to remove life support. Mr. Strickland challenged the state in court, asking to be considered Haleigh's de facto parent and to be allowed to argue for keeping her alive.

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected Mr. Strickland's petition on Tuesday, saying he did not provide enough of her daily care to be a de facto parent. The court added that Mr. Strickland "stands charged with criminal assault in connection with injuries inflicted on" Haleigh. "To recognize the petitioner as a de facto parent, in order that he may participate in a medical end-of-life decision for the child, is unthinkable."

Note that there seems to be a strong conflict-of-interest here -- Strickland seems to want to avoid a murder rap, which he'll be pinned with the moment the girl dies -- and yet the court finds the same way as they did in Schiavo: Pull the plug.

When someone with a conflict of interest wants the plug pulled: pull the plug.

When someone with a conflict of interest doesn't want the plug pulled: pull the plug.

There's consistency here. Not in the law or logic, but in the conclusion. Whatever the fact-pattern, the plug should be pulled.

When it doubt, pull it out.

Yes, yes, that's terribly reductive, I know. But I do think it's interesting that a court can spot a conflict-of-interest, but only when the purported guardian with the conflict-of-interest is in favor of keeping the patient alive.

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posted by Ace at 03:12 AM

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