Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lauren Richardson: A Life Saved

Readers of SHS may recall the Lauren Richardson situation: Lauren experience a catastrophic brain injury and was diagnosed as in a persistent vegetative state. Her mother wanted to remove her tube sustenance and her father resisted. Litigation ensued. At the 11th hour, Lauren's parents have come together in agreement to her live. From the story:

After gaining nationwide attention nearly a year ago as the focus of a court battle between her estranged parents--with her father arguing for her right to life and her mother countering that her final wishes were being violated--the 24-year-old severely brain-damaged woman will be going home with her father.

Her parents, Randy Richardson and Edith Towers, resolved their differences and ended their nearly two-year legal battle amicably with a joint guardianship agreement. "This resolution does exactly what we wanted all along," said Randy Richardson. "It gives Lauren a chance. We get to take care of her and give her the opportunity to heal."

Towers said she never wanted to pull life support from her daughter, but felt bound by a promise she made to Lauren. Before Lauren's August 2006 heroin overdose that caused her brain damage, Towers said her daughter asked her not to allow such measures if she ended up in a vegetative state.

In January 2008, the Delaware Court of Chancery awarded guardianship to Towers because of testimony about Lauren's wishes.

Richardson, fearing for his daughter's life, then took his case public with the help of pro-life groups. After a report in The News Journal, other news outlets followed, with nearly all noting the similarities to the 2005 Florida legal battle over Terri Schiavo --where Schiavo's husband wanted to remove a feeding tube, citing his wife's wishes, while her parents opposed ending life support.

What a wonderful result. And this points to the value of the struggle to save people like Lauren from dehydration. Sometimes circumstances change--as in the Jesse Ramirez case. And sometimes hearts and minds change, as here.

Bravo to Lauren's parents. Our most fervent best wishes to them and their daughter in the years to come.



At November 22, 2008 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

BRAVO!!!! That is wonderful news. It really speaks volumes of Ms. Towers, who, in comparsion to Michael Schiavo, ultimately worked with her daughter's other relatives instead of insisting that she have complete control over Lauren's fate. Mr. Richardson was very brave in fighting for his daughter when the media and society in general tend to be misinformed and insensitive toward family members who decide to maintain nutrition and other forms of treatment for their brain-damaged loved ones. I am sure that he will take very good care of his daughter and will continue to include Lauren's mom as a presence in her Lauren's life.


At November 23, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Here's a point that strikes me about this case: I read the judge's ruling in which he gave Lauren's mother custody. (I may not still have the link readily available.) In the ruling, the judge said he was giving her custody _because_ he had determined that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Lauren would want her feeding tube removed, and the mother was the one who wanted to do that. That's how I recall it, anyway. Yet the mother has been allowed by the courts to change her mind. That is, the judge didn't say, "Oh, now you no longer want to remove her feeding tube? Well, then, neither of you can have custody. We'll give custody to someone else who will carry out what this trial court determined were her wishes." Now, that is what was implied both by the courts and by informal statements in Terri Schiavo's case--that even if Michael had had a change of heart, she could not have been saved, because the court had determined by "clear and convincing evidence" that she would have wished to die, and so, supposedly, any guardian would have been ordered to remove the tube. In fact, Judge Greer's final proceeding was to _court order_ Michael Schiavo to have her tube removed. Not that Michael was unwilling, of course! But it made a legal difference whether he was just declared her guardian with decision-making power as to her care or whether he was directly ordered to have the tube removed. Now, my own guess is that this is something of a legal grey area. Even though the claim is that the judge is making his ruling on the basis of "clear and convincing evidence" about the person's wishes, it doesn't actually follow that he is forced by law to make specific court orders that the tube feeding be ceased. In this case, even though that was the judge's original rationale for giving the mother custody, he left it at the custody level and has now helped them to work out a joint custody agreement in which her feeding is _not_ stopped. So obviously the judges have some leeway here. I'll have to go and dig up the judge's custody ruling on Lauren, though, to double-check what I'm saying here.


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