Mass. Court Rules to Remove Girl from Life Support
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
There was another court case decided today dealing with life, death and medicine. The highest court in Massachusetts ruled that the state can allow a badly beaten 11-year-old girl to be removed from life support. Haleigh Poutre has been in a hospital since last summer when she was allegedly beaten by her adoptive mother and stepfather. NPR's Anthony Brooks reports.
ANTHONY BROOKS reporting:
The decision by the state supreme judicial court means that Haleigh Poutre will be allowed to die. The State Department of Social Services, which has custody of the child, wants to remove her ventilator consistent with the recommendations of her doctors who say she never will regain consciousness.
Eleven-year-old Poutre was allegedly hit, kicked, pushed down stairs and beaten in the head with a baseball bat last September. Her adoptive mother, who was also her aunt, was charged in the beating, and then two weeks later died in an apparent murder-suicide. Her stepfather, Jason Strickland, was also charged in the beating and could face murder charges when Haleigh Poutre dies. Strickland went to court to keep the girl alive. His lawyers, who did not return NPR's calls today, argued that Strickland was the de facto parent and that there should be someone who will argue for life. But the state said this is not about the right to life, but about how a person is allowed to die. In court, Haleigh Poutre's attorney, Lisa Cling, argued that Jason Strickland, the alleged abuser, could not represent the little girl's best interest.
(Soundbite from court session)
Ms. LISA CLING (Lawyer for Haleigh Poutre): This particular individual, at the very least, failed to protect her and, at the very most, he's responsible for...
Unidentified Man: I mean the...
Ms. CLING: How can it be in her best interest for this individual to be involved in the medical decision-making of this child?
BROOKS: The court agreed, saying there was no evidence that Strickland's participation in Haleigh Poutre's life was of a loving and nurturing nature. To recognize the petitioner as a de facto parent, said the court, is unthinkable.
The ruling means the state now has legal authority to end the final chapter of the little girl's life. Anthony Brooks, NPR News, Boston.
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