Thursday, January 26, 2006

I have a question for the hordes of bleeding-heart Hollywood stars who joined the “Save Tookie” brigade, who bowed their heads in prayer with ex-Crip gangster Snoop Dogg and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and pleaded to protect convicted Death Row murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams, and who lobbied so hard for the government to err on the side of life: Where are you now?

In Boston, an innocent girl was sentenced to death by the state. Her name is Haleigh Poutre. Last fall, she was hospitalized after her stepfather allegedly burned her and beat her unconscious with a baseball bat. Haleigh was kept alive by a feeding tube and ventilator. Doctors said she was “virtually brain dead” and in a “persistent vegetative state.” The medical professionals pronounced her “hopeless.”

Less than three weeks after Haleigh’s hospitalization, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services was raring to remove Haleigh’s feeding and breathing tubes. Even her biological mother (who had been deemed unfit to care for Haleigh and whose former boyfriend was accused of sexually abusing the child) wanted her put to death. The only person who wanted Haleigh alive was her stepfather, who will likely be charged with murder if Haleigh dies.

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of killing Haleigh, saying it was “unthinkable” to give the power to make a life-and-death decision to the man accused of putting Haleigh in a coma. Instead, the court did something just as unthinkable: It handed that power over life and death to the same child welfare agency that had failed time and time and time again to protect Haleigh from her abusers.

According to the Boston Herald, a report by her court-appointed guardian showed the Department of Social Services received 17 reports of abuse or neglect involving Haleigh in the three years before her adoptive mother and stepfather were charged with pummeling her into a coma.

“State can let beaten girl die,” the headlines trumpeted. But there was just one small complication for all those who, for whatever reason, were in such a rush to “let Haleigh die”: Haleigh is fighting to live.

As state officials prepared to remove Haleigh’s life support, the supposedly impossible happened. She began breathing on her own, responding to stimuli and showing signs of emerging from what the medical establishment had deemed her hopeless condition. Everyone had given up on Haleigh — except Haleigh. “There has been a change in her condition,” announced a DSS spokeswoman, Denise Monteiro. “The vegetative state may not be a total vegetative state.”

Unbelievably, the state weaned Haleigh off her breathing tube before the state Supreme Court ruling — but the government failed to inform the court of the development. Haleigh’s medical records and the social service agency’s brief remain sealed.

Politicians in Massachusetts are vowing full-scale investigations of the state’s incompetent child welfare bureaucrats. But where’s the accountability for the medical experts whose faulty diagnosis led to Haleigh’s court-approved death sentence? Will they step forward and reveal themselves? Will they explain how they erred? Will they apologize?

The Experts’ unequivocal assessments led the court to declare Haleigh in “an irreversible vegetative state” and to assert “the child could not see, hear, feel or respond.” Now, they admit they were wrong. And now, Haleigh’s life depends on the whims of a hopeless government agency that didn’t think the court needed to know the child was breathing on her own.

Haleigh’s story is a wake-up call to “right-to-die” ideologues who recklessly put such unlimited trust in the medical profession and Nanny State. With such uncertainty surrounding persistent vegetative state diagnoses, the presumption must be in favor of life. Yet, the “right-to-die” lobby’s mantra seems to be: When in doubt, pull it out.

While Haleigh clings to life, I’ve pondered how we might help persuade the plug-pullers to put off the child’s state-sanctioned death sentence. I propose nominating her for a Nobel Prize. It bought Tookie Williams five extra years.

Jamie Foxx and Susan Sarandon, will you join me?

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of the new book “Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.”

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