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Should Autistic Babies Be Killed? (1)

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1 Should Autistic Babies Be Killed? (1) on Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:25 pm

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Today's News & Views
January 7, 2009

Justice for Haleigh Poutre Does Not Mitigate the Tragedy
Part One of Two

"The sentencing of Jason Strickland was handed down three years after the case drew national attention when the state prematurely sought to remove [Haleigh] Poutre's life support after she fell into a coma from a near-fatal head injury in September 2005. A few months later, just when the state won court approval to end her life, saying her condition was 'hopeless,' the 11-year-old girl became alert, breathing on her own and responding to commands."
From "Poutre stepfather gets 12-15 years in prison," by Patricia Wen, which appeared in the Boston Globe.

A friend sent a link to this story which actually ran back in December. It is a story of almost soul-crushing brutality and callousness saved from utter disaster because Haleigh began to respond just in the nick of time.

Haleigh Poutre


We've written several times about Haleigh's terrible plight. When Hampden Superior Court Judge Judd Carhart sentenced Jason Strickland in December, it was for his part in what Wen characterized as a "horrific pattern of child abuse." During the three-week-long trial Strickland asserted innocence, saying that he accepted the explanation of his late wife, Holi, for the many wounds on Haleigh--that she "had a psychological condition that caused her to hurt herself."

As Wen wrote, "That explanation had also been accepted, over a five-year period, by the child's pediatricians, therapists, and state social workers, who dismissed allegations from neighbors and teachers that Haleigh was being abused in her home."

Added Wen, "The jury ultimately found that Jason Strickland may not have dealt the near-fatal blow to Haleigh's head, but that he was guilty of 'recklessly permitting' the injury to occur. The panel found him guilty of five of the six counts, including several instances of striking Haleigh in the summer of 2005."

In September 2005, Haleigh's adoptive mother and stepfather, Holi and Jason Strickland, brought the bruised and unconscious Haleigh to the emergency room of Noble Hospital in Westfield, Massachusetts, "saying she had become unresponsive after suffering flu like symptoms," the Boston Globe reported.

"Within two days, the Department of Social Services took custody of the couple's two other children, and a week later the couple was criminally charged in connection with Haleigh's traumatic brain injuries." Haleigh was 11 at the time.

Incredibly, only six days after the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) took custody of Haleigh, it asked Juvenile Court Judge James G. Collins for permission to remove her feeding tube and ventilator. According to the Boston Globe, on October 5, 2005, Collins gave the agency the go-ahead.

Fortunately, Haleigh (who, supposedly, was "in a vegetative state," and "had suffered a severe brain injury, and probably would never think or feel again") began to breath on her own and show "increased responsiveness." This came on January 18, 2006, less than 24 hours after the Supreme Judicial Court had backed the lower court's death order.

"A week later, DSS Commissioner Harry Spence witnessed her picking up a duck and a Curious George doll on command and tracking some of his movements with her eyes," according to the Globe's Wen. On Jan. 26, DSS transferred Haleigh to the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, where she lives and receives physical, speech, and occupational therapy.

The irony is that the only reason she had remained on life support was because of Jason Strickland's appeals, "which delayed the process long enough that Haleigh's condition began to improve," the Globe reported.

I look forward to reading your comments. Please send to daveandrusko@gmail.com.

Part Two -- Autistic Babies Should Not Be Killed. Period

2 Should Autistic Babies Be Killed (2) on Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:36 pm

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Today's News & Views
January 7, 3009

Autistic Babies Should Not Be Killed. Period
Part Two of Two

Editor's note. The followed was posted today on John Smeaton's blog. Mr. Smeaton is director of SPUC--the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Under the headline "Autism test 'could hit math skills,'" the BBC reports today that pre-natal testing for autism and the abortion of babies thought to be affected may not be far off.

In an interesting article, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, the director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, says that mathematical excellence and autism may be linked. He writes:

" … assuming such a test is developed, we would be wise to think ahead as to how such a test would be used. If it was used to 'prevent' autism, with doctors advising mothers to consider termination of the pregnancy if their baby tested 'positive', what else would be lost in reducing the number of children born with autism? Would we also reduce the number of future great mathematicians, for example? … Caution is needed before scientists embrace prenatal testing so that we do not inadvertently repeat the history of eugenics or inadvertently 'cure' not just autism but the associated talents that are not in need of treatment."

It's not clear what Professor Simon Baron-Cohen means in his final sentence above. Is he sounding a warning against the eugenic killing of the disabled? Or is he concerned principally, or solely, as the BBC's introductory paragraphs put it, that "caution is needed to ensure associated talents, like numerical abilities, are not lost if the test or a "cure" become available"?

Or is Professor Baron-Cohen unaware that we already have repeated the history of eugenics – both in Britain and elsewhere in the world – in our determined pursuit of the extermination of the disabled (as Alison Davis who has spina bifida and who is the leader of No Less Human, makes abundantly clear in her paper "A disabled person's perspective on eugenic abortion")?

The killing of disabled babies is infinitely more significant than any loss of human skills and talents. Whilst the Professor's article is interesting and thought-provoking, the BBC's headline provides a chilling reminder of modern Britain – in which countless human beings are killed as though they're rubbish, simply because they're disabled, and people in the media worry about the possible loss of math skills. Autistic babies should not be killed. Period.

Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com.

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