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Judge OKs Life Support Removal

October 30, 1998

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ The court-appointed guardian of a comatose infant won approval to remove the girl’s life support, even though the child’s eventual death could result in murder charges against her mother.

Judge Thomas P. Doherty of Children’s Court gave the mother of the 9-month-old girl until Nov. 9 to appeal his decision granting the approval Thursday. The identities of the girl, her relatives and her guardian have been sealed by court order.

The mother is serving a one-year jail sentence for child abuse of the girl, who has been coma for seven months. Authorities say the child was shaken by her mother and is brain damaged.

The guardian has said the family’s only reason for wanting to keep the infant on life support is ``they’re absolutely fearful the district attorney will charge the mother with second-degree murder if the baby dies.″

But in a letter to the court, the mother said she prays daily for her ``little angel″ and asked Doherty to let ``her little girl live her days until God sees fit to call her home.″

On Thursday, a nurse who has cared for the baby since June at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin spoke through tears about the girl’s condition. The child’s joints are stiff and her eyes remain open, so she has to wear dark glasses as protection from light, said Kim Danko.

``You know she’s never going home, she’s never going to be a child who crawls, pulls herself up on furniture, learns to walk and speaks her first word,″ she said.

The child’s only functional level is breathing and she could live on life support for two years, Doherty was told. Removed from a ventilator, she could breathe but not ``effectively to survive,″ said Rainer Gedeit, a pediatric specialist at the hospital.

Attorney Lew A. Wasserman, representing the mother, argued a vegetative state is insufficient reason for withdrawing life support. There must be other degenerative factors and ``we’re not there yet,″ Wasserman said.

``Take off the sunglasses and look at that baby’s eyes,″ the guardian replied. ``You want to see deterioration?″

A report last week from the guardian recommended ending life support. The judge agreed.

``This child _ the guardian and I agree _ does not need to be maintained as a mortician maintains a body,″ Doherty said. ``Everything that is human that you would attribute (to the child) is gone.″

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