Disability Advocates: Poutre Investigation Must Look Beyond DSS

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Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights group, is calling for an investigation into the allegedly shoddy medicine that led to a court order for the removal of life-support from Haleigh Poutre just days after her admission with a severe brain injury. She is now responsive and interactive four months after being declared "virtually brain dead" and in an "irreversible coma." If the court order had not been appealed, Haleigh Poutre would now be dead.

Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights group, is calling for an investigation into the allegedly shoddy medicine that led to a court order for the removal of life-support from Haleigh Poutre just days after her admission with a severe brain injury. She is now responsive and interactive four months after being declared "virtually brain dead" and in an "irreversible coma." If the court order had not been appealed (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Docket #SJC-09629), Haleigh Poutre would now be dead.

Specifically, investigations are imperative into :

How doctors at Baystate Medical could be so wrong in their diagnosis that Haleigh had "no chance of recovering cognitive or sensate functioning," and that she "cannot hear, feel, or respond." The doctors presented their diagnosis as established medical fact, whereas any prognosis following a brain injury must be provisional. These doctors must answer to charges of incompetence and negligence. Furthermore, have these doctors withdrawn life-support in similar circumstances in the past? Do they have expertise regarding brain injuries?

How the medical tests tests run after Poutre's biological mother saw signs of responsiveness earlier this month could be so wrong. Accepting the test results as dispositive, doctors again told DSS that there was "not a chance" of recovery. A few days later, Poutre became responsive. These tests are obviously fatally flawed, and must not be read prognostically.

How Baystate Medical could support the incorrect diagnosis just eight days after Poutre's admission. Brain trauma specialist Dr. Douglas Katz of Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital recently said "I wouldn't give up before a year." Is giving up after eight days standard operating procedure at Baystate Medical ? Has this hospital and others in the state allowed other children with brain injuries to die under such rushed circumstances?

Whether this rush to withdraw life support from brain injured patients is now accepted medical practice in the state of Massachusetts . The Baystate doctors doctors said that their recommendations were in line with established medical ethics. Perhaps we need some new ethics.

How the Juvenile Court, and later the Supreme Judicial Court, could so naïvely accept medical testimony regarding life and death without additional investigation. People with disabilities have a lot of experience with medical hubris regarding the quality of our lives, and know firsthand how mistaken and prejudicial doctors can be. The courts must stop their slavish deference to "established medical opinion," which is continually subject to critique and change.

How the courts understand the concept of "dignity." On October 5, barely 3 weeks after Haleigh Poutre's admission, a juvenile court judge ruled that her "dignity and quality of life would be most respected by withdrawing both the ventilator and the feeding tube." Now that Poutre is responsive, does she have her dignity back? Or is she still at risk of being determined as living an undignified life? Haleigh Poutre and the people of Massachusetts deserve an open discussion.

Not Dead Yet is the national disability rights organization that leads the disability community’s opposition to legalized assisted suicide, euthanasia and other forms of medical killings.

For more information, contact:

John Kelly, 617-536-5140

Stephen Drake, 708-209-1500, ext. 29

Not Dead Yet, 7521 Madison St., Forest Park, IL 60106

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