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End of Life, News

Delaware Court Allows the Removal of Brain-Injured 23-year old Woman’s Feeding Tube

Delaware Court of Chancery Master Sam Glasscock III issued a ruling January 24, 2008, that could result in the withdrawal of Lauren Marie Richardson’s feeding tube.

Twenty-three year-old Lauren Marie Richardson suffered severe brain damage after a heroine overdose in August 2007. She was kept alive with feeding tubes and a ventilator, and successfully delivered a healthy baby girl in February 2007.

According to Delaware law, if a person does not have a living will or other written healthcare directive, artificial nutrition and hydration may be withdrawn if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the person would have consented to the withdrawal. Delaware law, verbal testimony from friends and family can be presented as evidence in determining this matter.

In Lauren’s case, the mother, Edith Towers, testified that at the time the Terri Schiavo case was in the news, Lauren said: “Don’t ever leave me hooked up to life support. I would not want that. I think it is horrible. I think that I do not ever want to be kept on life support if doctors say there’s no hope.”

In his ruling, Glasscock awarded guardianship to Edith Towers, and wrote: “All medical evidence supplied by the physicians – by the independent neurologist and by Lauren’s own doctors – is in agreement: Lauren is not in a coma but is in a persistent vegetative state . . . She is unable to communicate or experience consciousness. Her continued existence is dependent upon tube feeding and hydration . . . No improvement in her condition can be expected.”

However, Lauren’s father, Randy Richardson, disagreed with the decision and has filed an appeal.

Randy Richardson said that Lauren was living with him during the time the Terri Schiavo case was in the news, and that she never made a statement declaring that she would not want life support. He also stated that Lauren no longer needs a ventilator to breathe, and has been told that she could be taught to eat. Last week, Randy Richardson and the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition Inc. released a recent video of Lauren, in which she appears to respond and react to her family members and a dog. Richardson asserted that she responds to him, and that he wants to take her home, where she will be cared for and where she can live out what is left of her life with dignity, rather than end her life through a slow starvation process.

Randy Richardson stated on Wednesday: “She’s committed no crime and doesn’t deserve to have this death imposed on her.”

Sean O’Sullivan, “Parents battle over life of brain-damaged daughter,” The News Journal, January 31, 2008.