For Right to Life
Monday, July 21, 2008
'If they treated a dog this way, they would be doing jail time'
The father of a disabled Delaware woman who recently earned the support of state lawmakers says the system – of courts, lawyers, hospitals and disability agencies – literally is combining to bring about the death of his daughter.
"The court system should=2 0not have the right to impose this kind of treatment on a mentally disabled person," Randy Richardson told WND today. His daughter, Lauren Richardson, has been disabled since an apparent drug overdose nearly two years ago.
Judie Brown of the American Life League recently issued a call to those who are concerned about such cases to help.
"The governor of Delaware, Ruth Ann Minner, is being asked by pro-life Americans across this nation to intervene in this case in order to save Lauren from what many fear is an imminent court order dictating that Lauren be starved and dehydrated to death," she wrote. "I am asking you to be one of those who communicates your passionate belief that Lauren's life is sacred and deserves to be protected from those who would order her death. The governor's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org."
Brown said "it has been a source of ongoing sadness to read of the difficulties Lauren Richardson's father has had over the course of the past several months.
"For those of you who are not familiar with her case, Lauren overdosed on heroin on August 28, 2006. She suffered oxygen deprivation as a result of the overdose and Lauren is now ... unable to speak out for herself. At the time of the overdose Lauren was expecting a baby. Her parents honored what they knew would have been her wish and did all they could to keep her healthy and20comfortable until the child was born. Today, though Lauren may not be aware of it, she is the mother of Ember Grace, who was born in February 2007," Brown wrote.
Lauren's case has been compared to that of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who died after courts ruled doctors could follow her husband's orders to deprive her of food and water until she died.
The Schiavo case, on which WND has reported exhaustively since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organization – ended in March 2005 when she died, despite a battle by her parents who wanted to care for her to overturn a court order allowing the removal of her feeding tube.
Randy Richardson says he now is battling his former wife, the medical establishment and the court system for the life of his daughter.
He told WND that the courts in Delaware are considering whether to designate that Lauren is in a persistent vegetative state, even though, "We've had doctors look at her … There are possibilities with treatments. But she's not getting treatments."
"The state does not allow this for prisoners. If they had treated a dog this way, they would be doing jail time," he told WND.
"With therapy, she might be eating [by herself] within a couple months," he said. "Right now they're trying to hang her out to dry."
He said he's identified treatments that could be tried and therapy that could be attempted, and he's offered to provide the care his daughter needs, but has been rejected.
"My daughter has been there for 16 months. I've had enough," he said. "I'm really ticked about it. This Medicaid thing is paying huge numbers to keep her in this home when she could be at my home for nothing."
Even now, without substantive treatment, he said, "She has been trying to sit up and also has tried to verbalize. She looks good, is loving, she cries, she can giggle, she can't talk but does try to verbalize, we can tell when she's in pain or uncomfortable."
He previously posted a YouTube video of her, which can be seen here:
But he told WND the court-appointed lawyers have now banned him from showing any pictures or videos which reflect Lauren's condition.
He said he and Lauren's mother, from whom he is divorced, worked together following Lauren's accident to make sure her care was provided until her baby was born. Then Randy Richardson got a letter from his ex-wife's lawyer telling him the goal would be to "permit Lauren's starvation," according to Brown.
At LifeForLauren.org Lauren's father confirmed, "We struggle at times as we seek to share with the public the details of what is happening with Lauren because of the disagreement we have with Lauren's mother. We cannot understand her reasoning in refusing a path of hope, healing and restoration for Lauren and insisting on causing her death by withholding food and water from her. The issue in Lauren's case is the eternal truth that all people, no matter what their medical condition, bear the image of God and deserve basic care and an opportunity to be restored to health."
The statement from the House of Representatives said:
BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the 144th General Assembly of the State of Delaware that it is against the public policy of this State and this State's interest in life, health and safety, for hydration and nutrition that is not harming a patient to be involuntarily removed from a non-terminal, apparently brain-incapacitated patient if doing so will cause the individual's death. Furthermore, such withholding of hydration and nutrition without: 1) clear written direction from a legally competent patient or, 2) a valid written advance health-care directive that was previously executed by a patient who is now incapacitated and that either allows such withholding under such circumstances or grants an agent authority to make that decision by an incapacitated patient is also against the public policy of the State of Delaware.
The lawmakers' plan cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which "asserts that 'everyone has the right to recognition as a person before the law' and that 'all are equal before the law.'"
They also cite the Americans with Disabilities Act that "clearly identifies the rights of the disabled to access essential needs and have essential services provided to them."
Further, they affirm, "it is becoming increasingly apparent that persons who are suffering from severe brain injuries often have cognitive functions significantly beyond what medical science previously estimated."
Finally, they determine, "it is also becoming increasingly apparently that the diagnosis of 'persistent vegetative state' or 'PVS' is a category that recent science shows is far more uncertain and overly broad than had been previously thought, including a high rate of misdiagnoses of PVS patients who have not been able to exhibit responses, but whose consciousness can now sometimes be measured."
In an explanatory note accompany the resolution, the lawmakers said: "This Resolution establishes protections for mentally disabled individuals in the State of Delaware. The impetus for this Resolution comes from the case of Lauren Richardson, a 24-year-old Delaware woman who, after suffering brain injuries and impaired consciousness, now faces the possible removal of her nutrition and hydration, despite the absence of her clearly specified and legal consent to any such a course of action. The State of Delaware has, through recent legislation prompted by the abuses at the Delaware Psychiatric Center, endeavored to protect the rights of mentally disabled patients in the First State. Lauren, as a mentally disabled person, is enumerated those same protection and rights."
A priest who was with Terri Schiavo during her final hours in this life later told WND society has it all wrong – because it does not understand the difference between a futile treatment and a futile life.
Father Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life, said even healthy people, if brain-injured, are in danger under the current precedent of cases.
"Terry left no indication that she wanted to be deprived of food and water. Yet the courts insisted that this happen. Nor was Terri lacking a family ready to care for her, without complaint. Yet they were not allowed to," he said.
"Many people fear that they will be given all kinds of machines and medicines against their will," Pavone told WND. "What they should fear is exactly the opposite, namely, that even when they indicate that they want appropriate treatments, these will be denied them."
A Delaware court in January awarded guardianship of Lauren Richardson to her mother, Edith Towers, who has told reporters her daughter would want artificial life support ended.
Source URL: http://www.wnd.com
The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly. Click here to learn more about the IFRL.