PORTLAND, Maine — Lawmakers in Maine have proposed a bill that would provide clarification on the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children in light of an incident that concerned Christian groups and others across the country.
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.
Trask then sued the state and the Department eventually agreed to Trask’s wishes to remove the DNR order, which resulted in the Maine Supreme Court dismissing the suit.
Now, lawmakers have proposed a bill in hopes of preventing a similar situation from occurring again in the future.
“A physician may withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a minor, institute a do-not-resuscitate order for a minor or take other action that is more likely than not to lead to severe physical harm or death of a minor only if the authorized legal surrogate for the minor gives direction in writing,” L.D. 1117 reads.
The legislation outlines that an “authorized legal surrogate” does not pertain to a state agency if the parent’s rights have not been fully terminated. It also requires a second opinion before the decision is made, and allows parents to change their mind about the directive.
But Attorney General Janet Mills says that she has concerns over the proposal as it takes up to two years for parental rights to be terminated in abusive situations.
The Christian Civic League of Maine and the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are supportive of the legislation.
“The hope of this bill is that it will provide guidance to the judges and attorneys and to the various parties involved so that there is no question about what proper legal procedures needs to be followed in the event that the department feels this step needs to be taken,” attorney Scott Hess, who represented Trask in court, told the Associated Press.
It is not known whether Trask has yet been reunited with her daughter or what the condition of the infant is at this time.