Friday, December 28, 2007

Pulling a Feeding Tube from a 16-Year-Old?

This is a terribly tragic case: Javona Peters has been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (a terrible name for a diagnosis, the only one I know of which contains a pejorative, a derivation of the V word). She became unconscious less than three months ago, and so the diagnosis seems rushed to me. In any event, from the story:

The emotionally shaken father of a 16-year-old girl in an irreversible coma at Montefiore Medical Center is wavering in his opposition to ending what's left of her life."I'm 85% changed in my mind now, but I don't know the legality," said Leonard Peters, whose daughter Javona Peters is in a permanent vegetative state after what was supposed to be a routine operation on Oct. 17. "I've got to think about it. I've got to talk to my lawyer," he said, a day after the Daily News reported on the teen's condition. "I mean, if nothing is working for Javona, I don't see the point now."

Until Wednesday, Peters opposed pulling the plug. "I don't give life and I cannot take a life," he told The News last week.

The reporter's hope killing "what's left of her life" comment aside, imagine the pressure this poor man is under to accede! Javona's mother, from whom he is estranged, wants the tube pulled. We know that too often medical teams and social workers pressure and cajole for such outcomes. But I would urge all concerned to hearken to the lessons we should learn from the Haleigh Poutre case. (More, here, here, here, and here.) She too was a girl diagnosed as permanently unconscious. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through its Department of Public Social Services, sanctioned by the MA Supreme Court had agreed to dehydrating her. But, before the deed could be done, Haleigh awakened--even though the doctors were sure she would never again be aware

My first question is: What's the rush? The story says the mother wants to sue the hospital, but that doesn't require Javona's death. So again, what's the rush?



At December 28, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

I add, which I know you will agree with, that "the point" of food and water is to give nutrition and hydration. The father has apparently been confused about this, perhaps by bullying, when he says, "If nothing is working, I don't see the point now." What was the point when she was a baby and couldn't talk? Does there need to be some special point to food and water?

Even if I were certain that my child was never going to awaken, it would always be wrong to dehydrate the child to death. May God help Javona.

At December 28, 2007 , Blogger James said...

Given this girl's young age, I wonder if the husband has been made aware that Stem Cell Therapy for anoxic brain injured patients has been going on for some time in China. Many families have pursued it at great financial and emotional cost. While the results have only yielded minimal improvement, families continue to go to China for repeated Stem Cell treatments. It is only a matter of time before the therapy is perfected to yield much better results. Stem Cell Therapy in China is one of best hopes for anoxic brain injured patients. Perhaps the father should investigate this before he gives up on his daughter. If the father is looking for a good starting place, he might want to start at the following web site:

The husband has created his own foundation in the research of anoxic brain injured patients. It appears form the web site, the husband has more knowledge of stem cell therapy than anyone else in the country.

Before the father gives up, he should at least investigate this.

God Bless,


At December 28, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

James -

Good point - there are all kinds of new therapies showing up out of modern research, and who knows? Maybe one of them will help her regain her consciousness. I don't think any less of her because she's in a coma; she needs to be cared for and loved just because she's a person, and not rushed to death. But where there's life, there's hope, and as long as she's alive, something may be done to reverse her condition, or give her even a bit of improvement. She should be kept alive first and foremost because of human dignity, but secondly, she should be kept alive because of hope for her condition.

At December 28, 2007 , Blogger James said...

I agree. I think age is critical factor these type of cases. If girl was 90 years old, then maybe I would think about letting her go. But, she is only 16 years old. I think she should give many years of possible recovery. It would difficult and challenging for the family, but what alternative is there?

At December 28, 2007 , Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

I thought there was a difference between coma and PVS. Here they're using the terms interchangeably. Is this an uneducated reporter, or sloppy language on the part of the medical people? Either way, 3 months is way too soon. (Actually, given the high number of false-positive PVS diagnoses, maybe that term needs to be discontinued.)

Wesley, you might want to fix your header - you've got "12-year-old" on it.

At December 28, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Laura: As I understand it, there is a difference. Comas are generally relatively short term conditions, while PVS may last decades. In a coma, the eyes are closed and one is unconscious. In a PVS, assuming correct diagnosis, the patient's eyes are open, she will go through wake and sleep cycles, she may move her head, make facial grimaces, etc. PVS is often misdiagnosed. People don't remain in a coma, they either die or become PVS, or move on to greater recoveries. One can be in a PVS, as I said, for decades, assuming proper care.

At December 28, 2007 , Blogger Truth said...

Is anecdotal evidence the same as "minimal improvement" in your mind James?

Wouldn't it be best for families to conserve their limited resources and use what they have available on treatments and procedures that have been scientifically evaluated for effectivness and determined to be safe, useful and worthwhile?

Not that cost should be a factor but VALUE should be. Some families might find any small improvement worth thousands and thousands of dollars. Some might even be willing to pay thousands of dollars in exchange for the PERCEPTION that something has changed. Anything is possible.

Sure there is value in hope.

But hope shouldn't be a marketing tool used to convince people to squander their life savings.

Selling someone the perception of change rather than real change and real improvement is something I would label criminal. Or at least morally bankrupt.

I would guess most families would want assurances that their loved one wasn't endangered and that there was a way to measure and demonstrate the improvement beyond hearing some stories that start out "I think it got better after the treatment".

At December 28, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Even if she were 90 years old, she should not have her feeding and hydration stopped and be killed by dehydration. It really doesn't matter who you are; you should be given food and water. All this "letting her go" stuff has got to be set aside. It isn't just "letting" a helpless girl die to refuse to give her water _until_ she dies.

At December 30, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Bonnie: You need to wash your mouth out with soap. You can comment here all you want but not use profanity.

What happens to a helpless little girl is everybody's business and worthy of comment--particularly when there is a public dispute. This is not a purely private affair.

At December 30, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

FYI: I deleted Bonnie's comment due to profanity. She said we should mind our own business and Ishame on me for trying to profit from these people's private matter.

I, of course, am not profiting by any of this.

At December 30, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

Bonnie -

'Cause you're probably reading this:

Wesley's nearly pulled my posts before, too, because I've come borderline in stuff, and he and I agree on 90% of what he writes about. Just mentioning 'cause he treats everyone fairly and he will warn if you get too close or pull you if you cross the line.

As to the matter of profit and minding our own business, if we didn't have these debates then how could we ever grow intellectually and morally? We have to be free to argue back and forth and to talk about things that are happening in the world. Debate teachers will pick stuff like this out and make students debate either side of the issue to enhance their skills and to make them think. We have to talk about these things because we're not islands. We're all interconnected and must be aware of what's going on around us. Also, we have to respect each other as unique individuals and therefore must understand what's happening in our neighbors' lives.

And Wes doesn't profit from this - it's a free blog that doesn't win him any money. He's a lawyer-type person and doesn't need to hit us up for weekly donations or something, so we're just here to talk and think things through.

And I don't think she should be dehydrated, either. She's a person, and deserves to be protected until the time of her natural death, just by virtue of being born human.

At December 30, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

James -

I have to disagree with your 90-year-old statement. Have many family members who are in the 70-90 year range and most of them are doing very well for themselves. I wouldn't want to "let them go" until they passed from a natural death, myself, because everything that they've ever meant to me means respecting their bodies and nature's (and God's) time for them. That means never making them feel like a burden, always making sure they're without pain, and caring for them until natural death. But even for a 90-year-old there is still hope as long as we choose to hold on to it. I do agree with you that we need to hold on to hope for this girl and work to make her better, though, as I said, the *primary* reason to keep her alive is because she's a human being and has human rights as such.

At January 02, 2008 , Blogger DreamWeb said...

I live in Tampa, FL and closely followed the Terri Schaivo case. I was in pain for her family who loved her. Her "husband" (who, at the time had already fathered a child or two by his lover) was nothing less than an adulterer and a cheat.

If my dog were in such a state, I would never deny food or water. And if you did that to a dog, you would be arrested. I cannot even believe that our society condones and sanctions legalized murder like what they did to Terri.

Then too, consider Terry Wallace (from Louisiana, I think), who was in a coma some 20 years. His mother REFUSED to listen to doctors and one day, he just woke up and asked for a Pepsi. Ah yes, he too was diagnosed as being in a Persistive Vegatative State.

Give the girl food and water. God does not need our help. If HE wants to end her life, then so be it. But we are not God.

At January 02, 2008 , Blogger johnwarndt52 said...

I had a friend who suffered a head injury in the early 1980's and was unconscious for nearly 8 months. His girlfriend told me that his family was investigating ways they could yank his feeding tube. Then he woke up! At first he was terribly impaired but made quick progress, in spite of his being force-fed anti-psychotic drugs. They said he had to be doped because he was "big and strong," and angry, but in fact he was as weak as a kitten from laying on his back, unconscious, for 8 months. He amazed everybody by teaching himself to walk again by clinging to the wall when the staff at the psych ward he was on just wanted to warehouse him in a whelchair. But then he choked on food and died, a common cause of death for people who are on anti-psychotic drugs. The system murdered him, slowly and torturously.

At January 02, 2008 , Blogger Katrinka Yobotz said...

I find it outrageous that we have come to the place where we are actually debating whether to starve and/or dehydrate a person to death simply because they are inconvenient or "not worth living". America needs to return once again to its moral roots. Is there still time?

One presidential candidate can turn things around, but has been effectively stifled by the media and powers that be. That conservative candidate is ALAN KEYES. Dr. Keyes has gone on record for years against the taking of human life, and was very involved in the efforts to save Terri Schiavo in Florida. Alan Keyes has said:

"As for the so-called "right to suicide" and related practices such as euthanasia: whatever emotional arguments we make on their behalf, they represent a violation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
Our rights, including the right to life, are unalienable. If we kill ourselves or consent to allow another to do so, we both destroy and surrender our right to life. We act unjustly. We usurp the power that belongs solely to the Creator, and deny the basis of our claim to human rights."

Electing a godly, honest and strong leader who will not compromise is the ONLY way we are going to see an end to this debate. This time, with the internet and alternative news and comment sources, we no longer need the media's lies and manipulation. Find out more at

At January 02, 2008 , Blogger mordechai said...

What's the big deal. Didn't you look at the picture she isn't white so of course the social workers want to pull the plug.

It's the same reason we support abortion. As you know the whole reason for planned parenthood was to get rid of the black problem by encouraging black women to abort their babies. All that is happenning here is that we are trying a post birth abortion with this woman.

What are you trying to suggest people that black children's lives are worth something. That somehow this girl is human. Not one of the liberal social workers would ever suggest this. Every doctor and social worker involved looks at her skin color and knows it is time to pull the plug.

At January 03, 2008 , Blogger SportyGal said...

What's wrong with this world. Just because someone is in PVS or a Comma don't mean they don't suffer. Pulling her feeding tube and letting her die that way is truly an evil but, unfortunately, legal way to kill someone. She will suffer a terrible death. It's not up to us as humans to decide weather or not some lives or dies. That is Gods job only!

I understand the financial situation for anyone. Life is worth more then money can buy!

At January 03, 2008 , Blogger lori said...

for mordechai, the issue here is not about color, its about saving money, my sister is in a pvs, she is white, and is treated very badly by staff where she resides, and mostly they are black, yet we do not make this a color issue but a government issue


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