December 28, 2007

Javona Peters Case: Nathaniel Abraham May Need a New Attorney

There's a battle shaping up in New York over the decision to remove the feeding tube from a 16 year old girl in a persistent vegetative state. It's right up David Gibbs' ally, which could mean that Gibbs will wind up taking a lot of time away from Creationist client Nathaniel Abraham's lawsuit against Woods Hole. If Abraham were smart, he'd be looking for alternative representation right now because Gibbs is almost certainly going to inject himself into the situation. If he were smart, that is.

Kin battle over daughter's life support

Sixteen-year-old Javona Peters sat up in bed at Montefiore Medical Center the morning of Oct. 17, smiling and chatting, ready for her operation...

A few hours later, Javona was without most of her brain function - forever blind, deaf, unable to move, talk, think or eat on her own.

Her heart still beats and she can breathe with assistance, but she is in a persistent vegetative state, much like Terri Schiavo or, a generation ago, Karen Ann Quinlan.

And now - like them - she is the subject of an impending court battle, one that will pit father against mother over whether to let their daughter die...
[Note: Javona's father has recently had a change of heart in his objection to removing his daughter from life support.]
It was supposed to be a routine, 90-minute procedure called a ventriculostomy. The surgeon would bore a hole in the brain to drain cerebral fluid into a cavity. This would alleviate the potentially destructive pressure of what's commonly known as water on the brain...

Then the parents learned from hospital personnel that Javona had stopped breathing during the operation.

"Her brain wasn't getting any oxygen. They said it was 'anoxia' and that destroyed her brain," Javona's mother said.

Javona's parents, who are estranged and never married, cannot agree on whether to remove the tube. Both consented to the operation; neither signed a do-not-resuscitate order.

Javona's mother wants her off life support: "I lost my only daughter, she was my life and now she's gone and I want her to go in peace..."

The matter is in Bronx Supreme Court, with Joseph's petition to be named her daughter's guardian. If granted, Joseph would have the power to ask for a judicial order to end her daughter's life support. A hearing on the case, which involves a planned medical malpractice suit, is set for Jan. 7.

"If the father chooses to fight it and the hospital refuses to honor the mother's wishes, it could become a case like Terri Schiavo's," Korek said...

Javona Peters' surgeon, Dr. James Goodrich, declined to comment. He is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Montefiore and a leader of the team that in 2003 performed a daring series of lifesaving surgeries on Carl and Clarence Aguirre, Filipino twins born joined at the head...

Joseph, who raised Javona from birth, said Javona was born prematurely. When she was 3 months old, Goodrich, then at Jacobi Medical Center, placed a shunt, or tube, in her brain to drain excess fluids, Joseph said...

Joseph, who has a detailed handwritten diary of what occurred, said Goodrich told her the relevant anesthestic agents used were vecuronium and pancuronium. Both are potent muscle relaxants, often used in concert. Pancuronium causes full muscle paralysis and is used in lethal injections in executions, according to medical dictionaries.

"I asked, if she wasn't getting enough oxygen, why didn't anyone notice with all those people and machines in the operating room," Joseph said.

Three weeks after the operation, Joseph said, Goodrich told her he thought Javona had had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia.

"He was very upset from the beginning," Joseph said...

Javona's mother is furious. "I am shocked, I am angry, I am hurt and I am devastated," she said.
Right off the bat, I wish Javona Peters' family well and can only hope that if there was the least bit of negligence on the part of those involve with this surgery that they are held fully accountable. I can't imagine what Peters' family is going through right now and I hope that neither I nor anyone else ever have to find out what it's like to have to make a terrible decision like this. Ms. Peters has every right to file a malpractice suit in this situation and have the events leading up to this sorry state of affairs investigated exhaustively. At the same time, I hope that the medical personnel in this were as responsible as their positions demand and that this was, indeed, an unfortunate accident. For that matter, I wish that Javona Peters would leap up from her bed in full health. That, unfortunately, is very unlikely to happen.

At this point, as noted above, Peters' father is even coming to realize that his daughter's condition is unlikely to change for the better:
The father, Leonard Peters, was initially against the idea, but has said he is "85% changed my mind now, but I don't know the legality." He said that if nothing works for Javona he does not see the point now.


The question here is whether David Gibbs will be able to resist the temptation to take a public stand on this, or even file some kind of motion (sorry, I'm not up on my legalese) to get himself involved as if he were representing Javona Peters directly. Will he call Congress into session at midnight as he did in the Terri Schiavo case and attempt to contravene Peters parents in his effort to bring the laws of man into line with what he imagines as the Laws of God? This is, after all, exactly the sort of case upon which Gibbs has established his fame in religious circles. I just can't see him passing up another "opportunity" like this one. Anybody care to wager how long it will be before we hear his name in connection with this case?

If there's anything that's more of a hot button issue for folks like Gibbs than evolutionary biology, it's the "right to life." Gibbs' co-believers can always advocate for the possibility of a divine intervention (miracle) and contend that prayer can cure anything... even irreversible coma.

Nathaniel Abraham had better start looking for a new attorney. The Peters case goes before the Bronx Supreme Court on January 7. That's not a lot of time.

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