New York Teen’s Mother Named Partial Guardian in Euthanasia Battle

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 15, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New York Teen’s Mother Named Partial Guardian in Euthanasia Battle Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 15,

Bronx, NY ( — The mother of a teenage girl in New York embroiled in a euthanasia battle has been named her guardian, but only for the purpose of pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit. She has now been named Javona Peters’ guardian for the purpose of deciding whether or not to end the comatose girl’s life.

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.

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.

Janet Joseph wants to pursue a medical malpractice case against doctors at the hospital and she won a limited victory in court on Monday to be named Peters’ guardian for that purpose.

Leonard Peters, Javona’s father, was not present at the court, but, according to the New York Daily News, agreed to the appointment.

"I just want to make it clear" that the appointment "has nothing to do with the continuation or discontinuation of life support or any care and treatment of this young woman," Justice Stanley Green said during the hearing.

Peters’ parents were never married and are estranged — and they are 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, who sent out a notice about the case from their 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.