Disabled Teenager Javona Peters, New York’s Terri Schiavo, Passes Away

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

Disabled Teenager Javona Peters, New York’s Terri Schiavo, Passes Away Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 15,

Bronx, NY (LifeNews.com) — Javona Peters was considered by some to be New York’s Terri Schiavo — a disabled, comatose girl whose family was divided over her medical fate. Peters, who fell into a coma in October while she had a routine medical procedure at Montefiore Medical Center, recently passed away.

Doctors had 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.

Last month, Peters’ mother was named her guardian, but only for the purpose of pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The fight to save Javona Peters reminded 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, Janet Joseph and Leonard Peters, disagreed on whether or not to remove her feeding tube and take her life.

Wesley J. Smith, a noted attorney and bioethics watchdog, says the fight never got to court, the way the battle over Terri Schiavo did.

"It is my understanding that, to their credit, both parents who are estranged, never got to the place where they fought in court over removing her feeding tube, but instead cooperated in medical decision making," he commented after learning of Peters’ death.

"This may not assuage their grief now in the agony of losing a child, but I hope both can take a bit of comfort that she was given every medical chance to survive," he added.

Peters’ parents were never married and are estranged and both filed separate requests to be given custody of their daughter. Peters has been opposed to removing the feeding tube but had wavered recently.

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

The case drew 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.

Ultimately, Smith said he hopes the case will show that a rushed decision to determine someone is in a persistent vegetative state isn’t appropriate.

"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 LifeNews.com 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.