PORTLAND — Officials in Maine are backing down after the governor of the state expressed his support for a teenage mother who has been fighting the agency over a ‘do not resuscitate’ order imposed on her baby.
As previously reported, Aleah Peaslee was six months old when her father, Kevin Peaslee, 22, allegedly shook her as he was watching the child while her mother was at work. He originally told police that he had dropped the baby, but later admitted to shaking her, and was charged with aggravated assault.
Aleah was severely injured and, at one point, went into a coma. Doctors did not believe that she would survive, and suggested a DNR order, which was initially agreed upon.
However, after the hospital removed Aleah from life support and placed her in the arms of her 18-year-old mother, Virginia Trask, the baby continued breathing on her own. Days later, she came out of the coma.
Because of this, Trask asked that the DNR order be lifted, but the hospital said that it should remain because the child was still dealing with severe brain injuries. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services also became involved and went to the courts to have the DNR order reinstated against the parents’ will.
It eventually found a judge that would agree, opining that “neither parent can be counted on to be physically or emotionally available to make the necessary informed decision when needed.” The department also succeeded in having Aleah transferred to the custody of foster care.
“The state is effectively arguing that this mom isn’t fit to make medical decisions for her child simply because she wants the child to live,” explained Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Steven Aden, who filed a friend of the court brief this month in support of the mother.
Maine Governor Paul LePage also backed Trask’s right to make medical decisions for her daughter.
“This case is disturbing and is not reflective of my administration’s position that a parent who is the legal guardian of their child should have final say in medical decisions about life-sustaining treatment,” he said in a statement this week. “The existing law violates the sanctity of parental rights, and I cannot support it. Unless a parent is deemed unfit and parental rights are severed, the state should not override a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their own child.”
Now, Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of the Maine Health and Human Services Department, has likewise issued a statement outlining that the agency will not enforce the order even if it is upheld the the state Supreme Court, which is currently considering the matter.
“If the higher court upholds the previous decision that a parent’s rights can be overridden by the Department, this administration will not exercise that misplaced authority,” she said.
However, some state that the Supreme Court case is likely to be dismissed because of the agency’s decision and Gov. LePage’s position.
“Everyone deserves a fighting chance to live,” Aden said. “We are pleased the health department is affirming the mother’s parental rights and the right to save her daughter’s life. This decision also reaffirms Mainers’ interest in life and the integrity of the medical profession. The state should dismiss its appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to avoid setting a dangerous precedent which risks violating parental rights.”