Jesse’s Girl: Disabled Patients are Targets Following Terri Schiavo’s Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 1, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Jesse’s Girl: Disabled Patients are Targets Following Terri Schiavo’s Death Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Wesley J, Smith
November 1, 2007 Note: Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. His latest book is Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World.

On October 19, only months after being nearly dehydrated to death when his feeding tube was removed, Jesse Ramirez walked out of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix on his own two legs. Ramirez is lucky to be alive.

Early last June, a mere one week after a serious auto accident left him unconscious, his wife Rebecca and doctors decided he would never recover and pulled his feeding tube. He went without food and water for five long days.

But then his mother, Theresa, represented by lawyers from the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, successfully took Rebecca to court demanding a change of guardianship on the grounds that Rebecca and Jesse’s allegedly rocky marriage disqualified her for the role.

The judge ordered that Jesse be temporarily rehydrated and nourished. Then Jesse regained consciousness. Now, instead of dying by dehydration, he will receive rehabilitation and get on with his life–all because his mother rejected the reigning cultural paradigm that a life with profound cognitive dysfunction is not worth living.

Ramirez is only the latest instance of an unconscious patient waking up after being consigned to death by dehydration. Take the disturbing case of 12-year-old Haleigh Poutre in Massachusetts. Haleigh barely survived terrible child abuse and then was nearly done in by the very people charged with protecting her.

Only eight days after she was hospitalized in the wake of a beating, the Massachusetts Department of Public Social Services, acting on doctors’ solemn assurances that she was "virtually brain dead," requested permission to remove her respirator and feeding tube. This request was approved by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

But the doctors, social workers, and judges were wrong about Haleigh’s prospects. Just before her life support was withdrawn, she began to exhibit signs of awareness–she picked up a stuffed duck when requested–leading to a last-minute reprieve. Today, while Haleigh’s exact condition is not public information, reports in the media indicate she is awake and aware and able to eat some foods.

Beyond these and other unexpected spontaneous awakenings, there is the news that some patients diagnosed with persistent vegetative state may actually be cognizant. This discovery stunned the scientific community after doctors conducted a sophisticated brain scan upon a supposedly deeply unconscious British woman. Unexpectedly, the scan looked, well, normally reactive to stimuli.

Read the rest of the article here.