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LIFE DIGEST: Del. woman may be one of many who die by starvation


WASHINGTON (BP)–A young, severely brain injured Delaware woman is at the center of a life-and-death court battle between her parents.

Regrettably, her potential demise by starvation and dehydration would not be an unusual occurrence in this country, a pro-life, bioethics specialist says.

Randy Richardson and Edith Towers are locked in a fight over the fate of their daughter, Lauren Richardson, 26, whom a judge has ruled is in a “persistent vegetative state” after an accidental heroin overdose, according to The Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. Lauren was pregnant when she suffered the brain injury in August 2006. She was placed on life support in order to save her baby, whom she gave birth to several months later.

After the birth, the parents began battling over Lauren’s care. Towers says her daughter had expressed a desire not to live in such a condition, while Richardson refutes his former wife’s claim, The News Journal reported. A judge granted guardianship to Towers in January, a ruling that could lead to removal of her feeding tube. Richardson, however, appealed the ruling, blocking any withdrawal of treatment for now.

The case is reminiscent of that of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who was described as being in a “persistent vegetative state” despite giving the appearance of responding to others and died in 2005. A court granted her husband’s wishes that her feeding tube be removed over the opposition of her parents.

Such cases are all too common but rarely reported, said Wesley Smith, a lawyer for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.


“Dehydrating the cognitively devastated is a ubiquitous practice in U.S. hospitals and nursing homes,” Smith wrote Feb. 1 on the weblog bioethics.com. “It isn’t even controversial unless … there is a family division and someone kicks up a fuss. Usually, families go along and no one is the wiser.

“Let me repeat this sickening fact: The dehydration of people who are elderly stroke or dementia patients, people of all ages with brain injuries and others with profound cognitive incapacities who require feeding tubes goes on ALL THE TIME in ALL FIFTY STATES to people who are both CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS,” he wrote. “And society generally applauds.”

BRITISH ABORTION SURVIVORS LEFT TO DIE — Dozens of unborn children targeted for abortion survive and are left alone to die each year in Great Britain, according to a new government report.

The study showed 66 babies survived abortion efforts in National Health Service facilities in 2005 alone, according to a Feb. 4 report in the Evening Standard, a British newspaper. The totals surprised observers, who previously believed only a few such deaths occurred each year.

Half of the victims in 2005 lived by breathing without help for about an hour or more, while one child survived for 10 hours, the Evening Standard reported.

The abortion method used causes the mother to go into labor, with the intention the unborn baby will die during labor or birth. If a child survives, he is left unattended to die.

In the United States, Congress adopted a measure to prohibit what were known as “live-birth” abortions after it was discovered they were occurring in American hospitals. President Bush signed the Born-alive Infants Protection Act in 2002.

FROZEN STEM CELLS SAVE TODDLER — Frozen, non-embryonic stem cells have been credited with saving the life of a 2-year-old English girl with a rare form of cancer.

Sorrel Mason of Great Wratting in Suffolk has made a total recovery from acute myeloid leukemia after receiving a transplant of stem cells from an umbilical cord frozen in Japan, according to a Feb. 6 report in the Daily Mail, a British newspaper. Before last year’s transplant, Sorrel had been given only a 30 percent chance of survival.

Samantha Mason, Sorrel’s mother, thanked doctors for what she described as “a miracle.”

“Sorrel would be dead now if she had been left untreated,” Samantha said, according to the Daily Mail. “The stem cells frozen in Japan were the only match in the world which could have been used. They were the most terrifying months our family could live with, but the doctors pulled off a miracle for us.”

The successful transplant provided more evidence of the therapeutic value of non-embryonic stem cells, which have now produced therapies for at least 73 human ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of human embryos, has yet to treat any diseases in human beings.

NCAA ACTS TO AID PREGNANT ATHLETES — The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has approved a rule to protect pregnant athletes from having to choose between giving birth to their babies or having them aborted in order to keep their scholarships.

The NCAA board of directors endorsed a measure barring member schools from revoking scholarships because of “pregnancy, depression, addiction, mononucleosis and eating disorders,” according to The Daily Aztec of San Diego State University. The rule, however, only applies in the year the female athlete becomes pregnant, making it possible for her scholarship to be withdrawn the following year, the newspaper reported

The board approved the rule Jan. 14 at the annual NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The Division I Management Council passed the proposal the day before by a 46-5 vote, according to The Daily Aztec. The rule will take effect Aug. 1.

The action came after ESPN reported in May that seven female students at Clemson University in South Carolina had undergone abortions in recent years, largely because they feared losing their athletic scholarships. They had to sign statements that threatened loss or reduction of financial aid if they became pregnant and could not compete, according to the report.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington bureau chief.