Battle Over Possible Euthanasia of New York Teenager Gets Pro-Life Attention

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Battle Over Possible Euthanasia of New York Teenager Gets Pro-Life Attention Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 1,

Bronx, NY ( — The battle over the life and death of a teenage girl in New York has drawn the attention of pro-life advocates in recent days. The fight to save Javona Peters reminds some of the struggle of the Schindler family in Florida to save the life of Terri Schiavo, a beloved daughter and sibling whose former husband eventually took her life.

In this case, Peters’ parents are disagreeing on whether or not to remove her feeding tube and take her life.

Peters fell into a coma in October while she had a routine medical procedure at Montefiore Medical Center. Doctors have pegged her as being in a persistent vegetative state, a medical diagnosis pro-life advocates dispute because so many patients have partially or fully recovered.

Peters’ parents were never married and are estranged and have considered a medical malpractice suit against the hospital, according to a New York Daily News report.

But Janet Joseph and Leonard Peters are also feuding over Peters’ care and have each filed separate requests to be given custody of their daughter. Peters has been opposed to removing the feeding tube but has wavered recently.

Edward Gersowitz, an attorney for Joseph, told the newspaper that "Because of her condition, she cannot make decisions for herself, and the court will have to appoint a guardian to make decisions for her."

As a teen, Peters doesn’t have a living will or some other advanced directive providing guidelines for the type of medical treatment, or withdrawal, she favors.

The case has drawn the attention of the Schindler family, which sent out a notice about the case from its foundation, which helps disabled patients receive legal help and appropriate medical care.

Leading bioethics watchdog Wesley J. Smith has also commented on it and he says the PVS diagnosis seems "rushed" to him.

Smith says he sympathizes with the father and the pressure he is under to take Peters’ life.

"We know that too often medical teams and social workers pressure and cajole for such outcomes," he said.

Smith draws comparisons to the case of Haleigh Poutre, a Massachusetts girl whom reported was also declared PVS, but who has recovered from the abuse she suffered.

In that case, state government officials had ordered her feeding tube removed but she recovered from the PVS state shortly beforehand.