by Steven Ertelt
December 6, 2005
Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — An eleven year-old girl who was the victim of severe child abuse at the hands of her adoptive Aunt and her husband is the next subject of a Terri Schiavo-type euthanasia debate. Massachusetts officials, who now have custody of the girl, who has been living in what doctors claim is a vegetative state, say she should be removed from life support.
Haleigh Poutre was taken to the hospital three months ago after suffering broken teeth, a swollen face, and burns on her chest. She was extremely thin from not eating, she had cuts and sores all over her body and a temperature of just 81 degrees.
However, the most traumatic injury for Haleigh was the shearing of her brain stem from abuse to the head, leaving her disabled.
According to a New York Times report, police say Haleigh’s aunt, Holli Strickland, who adopted Haleigh in 2001, and her husband, Jason Strickland, both Massachusetts residents, were responsible for the child abuse Haleigh suffered.
And just one day after being released from custody on bail, Holli killed herself, leaving Jason to face the charges alone.
But now the legal issues have taken a different turn as the state believes Haleigh should not longer be kept on life support. A Juvenile judge granted the request in September, but Jason Strickland, the girl’s stepfather, doesn’t want life support removed.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case today when it holds hearings on it.
The case is somewhat unusual and different from that of Terri Schiavo because here the family member who wants to make sure an incapacitated patient isn’t killed is the person who put the patient in the incapacitated state.
With Terri, a loving family who wanted to care for her and help her obtain rehabilitative treatment and medical care were denied that opportunity.
In Haliegh’s case, Strickland does not have legal custody of her because he never adopted the girl, so the courts have given him no legal standing. But he will ask the Massachusetts high court to recognize him as the de facto father, which the Juvenile judge denied.
Strickland is not accused of the more serious abuse Haleigh suffered at the hand of her Aunt, but he is charged with hitting her and not stopping Holli from hitting Haleigh with a baseball bat.
John Egan, his attorney, told the Times that Haleigh called Strickland "Daddy" and he helped raise her. He says the girl’s Catholic faith may also have made her opposed to euthanizing her.
Haleigh’s birth mother, Allison Avrett, who lost custody of her daughter at age 4 over child abuse, wants life support to be removed.