Haleigh Poutre’s Family Wants State Officials Punished for Ignoring Abuse

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 12, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Haleigh Poutre’s Family Wants State Officials Punished for Ignoring Abuse Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
December 12
, 2006

Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — The family of Haleigh Poutre, the victim of child abuse who was nearly killed via euthanasia when Massachusetts officials gave up on her after she entered a coma, wants officials disciplined who they say ignored the abuse.

During a press conference on Monday, Haleigh’s biological mother and grandmother, said they want to hold Department of Social Services accountable for not stopping the beatings that left Haleigh disabled.

“Each step of the way I thought there would be such an uproar and there would be all kinds of strong responses and actions from state (legislators), but the silence has been deafening," said Susan Molina, a child protection advocate who spoke for the family at the news conference.

“The message in Massachusetts is that anything goes," she said, according to a Boston Herald news report.

Molina said she would seek meetings with lawmakers to get them to investigate why DSS didn’t intervene on Haleigh’s behalf despite receiving reports of child abuse.

DSS eventually took Poutre into custody and, when she appeared to slip into a coma, the agency asked the state Supreme Court for permission to take her life. That’s when Poutre began responding.

Doctors declared Haleigh "brain dead" and in a permanent vegetative state but now she can talk and interact with people.

Allison Avrett, Haleigh’s birth mother whose alleged original abuse of her daughter led to her placement in a foster home, also appeared at the press conference along with Haleigh’s grandmother, Sandra Sudyka.

Sudyka said she was able to visit Haleigh during a hospital visit in July and that she was able to talk in a limited capacity. However, a local judge has prevented her and Avrett from visiting Poutre. DSS told the judge not to allow visitation.

Sudyka last saw Poutre on July 18 but indicated she was "doing well."

"She was bright-eyed and smiling. She is always responsive to us," Sudyka explained.

“I think they’re afraid of what she might say,” Sudyka told the newspaper.

In response to the press conference, DSS spokeswoman Mia Alvarado told the Boston newspaper “We have a request from the courts not to speak on any matter related to Haleigh, and we feel we need to honor that request."

Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics watchdog and attorney who has written on euthanasia issues agrees the state should look into the problems.

"It is a matter of crucial public concern to learn why an abused little girl came within a hair’s breadth of being dehydrated to death," he said. "Protecting her ‘privacy’ should not be a way of covering up a near egregious human rights abuse."

Avrett has filed a $12.5 million lawsuit against DSS saying she was coerced into giving up Haleigh. She denied allegations she abused Haleigh or that her then-boyfriend sexually abused the girl in 1999, which state officials used as the reason to take Poutre from her.

Avrett’s half sister Holli Strickland, who made the sexual abuse allegations, later adopted Haleigh and she and her husband were charged with beating Haleigh in September 2005. Strickland killed herself shortly after killing out of prison on bail.

Poutre has been receiving physical, speech and occupational therapy since January 26 at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton.

Gov. Mitt Romney appointed a commission to look into how the state failed to properly handle the girl’s case.