The tragic case of poor Haleigh Poutre, the brain-damaged 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts whom the Department of Social Services wanted taken off life support over the objections of the stepfather charged in the beating that left her comatose, is making some waves around the blogosphere. Michelle Malkin has a lot of links here. She also laments a “post-Schiavo syndrome” that she believes has made a lot of people, on the left and the right, unwilling to grapple with this case. In particular, she chides John Cole for his “Dear God, not again” riposte to her earlier “Haleigh wants to live” post, a response Malkin sees as epitomizing “a jaded and shockingly callous exasperation.”
Actually, I think that Malkin has a point about Schiavo fatigue, and that this case is genuinely deserving of attention. First of all, there is the egregious mishandling by the Massachusetts DSS of ample evidence that Haleigh was being abused. (The girl had been removed from the custody of her biological mother at the age of four; prior to that, she had been sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. In 2001, she was legally adopted by her aunt, who committed suicide last September after being arrested, along with her husband, in the beating that sent Haleigh to the hospital with near-fatal injuries. The entire timeline of this terrible case can be found here.) Second, it appears that DSS sough to have Haleigh’s life support terminated with unseemly haste, a mere three weeks after she lapsed into unconsciousness on September 11.
According to The Boston Globe:
Several neurologists who specialize in brain injuries said yesterday that it is hard to know if there was enough conclusive medical evidence about Haleigh’s condition to warrant the DSS’s decision to seek to withdraw life support within three weeks of her hospitalization.
”Three weeks is early with what we know can happen with recovery,” said Dr. Nancy Childs, executive medical director of Texas NeuroRehab Center in Austin, Texas, who has been working with brain-injured patients for more than 20 years.
Childs said statistics show that 52 percent of brain-injured adult patients recover consciousness a month after their trauma and that 16 percent recover after three months. She also said that, in general, brain-injured children, with their growing and elastic brains, ”have a better outcome” than brain-injured adults.
Indeed, plans to remove Haleigh’s feeding tube have been suspended because the girl showed signs of improvement after being taken off a ventilator (she is now breathing on her own). I certainly hope that more is done to ensure that this poor girl gets every chance she can have, and that Terri Schiavo fatigue will not keep her from getting all the attention she deserves.
However, if the “post-Schiavo syndrome” becomes a complicating factor in this case, the fault will rest squarely with the so-called “champions” of Terri Schiavo.
After all the lies and all the hysteria from the “save Terri” brigade (the junk science intended to prove that she was conscious and responsive, the peddling of an absurd affidavit from a nurse alleging a conspiracy to conceal evidence of Schiavo’s condition, the bizarre claim that the dying Schiavo tried to say “I want to live,” the false charges that her husband Michael had abused her and possibly caused her coma, the cries of Auschwitz … the list goes on and on), any cause seen as Schiavo redux is going to be seen with a certain degree of cynicism.
Incidentally, it is also worth noting that while the Massachusetts DSS has certainly screwed up in this case, it was also the same DSS that asked for additional tests to determine if Haleigh might be emerging from her vegetative state. The doctors and the social workers are not ghouls who would knowingly starve to death a living person (and yes, by living I mean having either some consciousness or some prospect of regaining it).
I’m not saying that we should all relax and leave this to the professionals. This case certainly merits all the public attention it can get, including attention from journalists, bloggers, and public officials. But those responsible for the macabre circus that was the Terri Schiavo case have squandered all moral authority on this issue. The best thing they can do for Haleigh Poutre is keep quiet and leave this case to those who have some credibility.