Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Pulling a Feeding Tube from a 16-Year-Old?


This is a terribly tragic case: Javona Peters has been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (a terrible name for a diagnosis, the only one I know of which contains a pejorative, a derivation of the V word). She became unconscious less than three months ago, and so the diagnosis seems rushed to me. In any event, from the story:

The emotionally shaken father of a 16-year-old girl in an irreversible coma at Montefiore Medical Center is wavering in his opposition to ending what's left of her life."I'm 85% changed in my mind now, but I don't know the legality," said Leonard Peters, whose daughter Javona Peters is in a permanent vegetative state after what was supposed to be a routine operation on Oct. 17. "I've got to think about it. I've got to talk to my lawyer," he said, a day after the Daily News reported on the teen's condition. "I mean, if nothing is working for Javona, I don't see the point now."

Until Wednesday, Peters opposed pulling the plug. "I don't give life and I cannot take a life," he told The News last week.

The reporter's hope killing "what's left of her life" comment aside, imagine the pressure this poor man is under to accede! Javona's mother, from whom he is estranged, wants the tube pulled. We know that too often medical teams and social workers pressure and cajole for such outcomes. But I would urge all concerned to hearken to the lessons we should learn from the Haleigh Poutre case. (More, here, here, here, and here.) She too was a girl diagnosed as permanently unconscious. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through its Department of Public Social Services, sanctioned by the MA Supreme Court had agreed to dehydrating her. But, before the deed could be done, Haleigh awakened--even though the doctors were sure she would never again be aware

My first question is: What's the rush? The story says the mother wants to sue the hospital, but that doesn't require Javona's death. So again, what's the rush?


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