Saturday, August 12, 2000

State asks court to let tot die

Child was battered into coma

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A state agency has asked a court to allow a “natural death” for a toddler who was battered into a vegetative state.

        The Cabinet for Families and Children filed a motion to that effect in Jefferson Family Court, the agency announced Friday. If granted, a “do not resuscitate” order would be issued for doctors treating 21-month-old Brook Miller of Louisville.

        She would continue to be fed and cared for. But there would be no attempt to revive her in the event of cardiac arrest or respiratory distress, a cabinet statement said.

        The child has been in an irreversible coma since March 1999, when she was shaken and battered by a baby sitter. She has been in the state's custody since.

        Viola Miller, secretary of the cabinet, authorized the request for a court order, the cabinet statement said.

        “It has been medically and judicially determined that Brook's life, in any meaningful sense of the word life, ended March 11, 1999,” the statement said.

        The baby sitter, Robert W. Meadows III, 21, of Louisville, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree assault and first- degree criminal abuse. A jury recommended a 30-year prison sentence.

        The child's mother, Tammy Miller, pleaded guilty to criminal abuse and was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.

        The case is not the first of its kind.

        Cabinet spokesman Michael Jennings said he had been told by cabinet officials that such requests are rare but not unprecedented, but he did not have any specific examples other than a 1998 case.

        In that case, the agency got a court order to have one of its wards, a mentally retarded man, removed from life support.

        That case was unique because the patient, Matthew Woods of Lexington, was already dead, and courts were allowing a lawsuit to proceed for precedent purposes.

        “We are obliged in cases in which we have custody of a child ... and in which parents are unwilling or unable to act upon medical advice to act in their stead, ... and the medical advice that we have received in this case was that a do not resuscitate order would be the most humane and compassionate thing to do,” Mr. Jennings said.

        Debra Miller, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the cabinet in the Brook Miller case was “faced with the same kind of decision-making a family is faced with and has to make some balancing decisions as to quality of life.”


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