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Comatose Baby’s Care Still Debated By Parents

October 21, 1986

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. (AP) _ Parents of a comatose baby whose fate recently was debated in court have agreed to let their son die naturally, but remain at odds over the level of care he should receive.

The estranged parents have agreed to a ″do-not-resuscitate″ order for 7- month-old Lance Steinhaus. But there is still dispute over whether a tube should be used to help the baby breathe and whether fluid should be suctioned from his lungs, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch reported today.

The infant has been comatose since two beatings in late April by his father, Tim Steinhaus, 26, who said he lost control when his son would not stop crying. The baby is in stable condition and breathes on his own.

Steinhaus is serving 10 years at Stillwater Prison after pleading guilty to two charges of first-degree assault on his son. He has fought the ″do-not- resuscitate″ order, but agreed to withdraw his legal opposition if he is satisfied with the care being taken to ensure the baby’s comfort, according to attorneys.

The baby’s mother, Amy Wiederholt, 21, of Winsted, has been an advocate of her son’s right to ″die with dignity.″ County officials, who have custody of the infant, blocked Wiederholt’s request when her estranged husband protested.

The baby’s case has been monitored closely by medical authorities, anti- abortion groups and handicapped rights advocates as a test of the 1984 ″Baby Doe″ law, which requires aggressive medical treatment for handicapped infants unless that treatment is merely prolonging death.

County welfare officials are expected to approve the ″do-not-resuscitate″ order soon, said David Peterson, an attorney for the county.

Until then, doctors remain under orders to revive the baby if his breathing or heart should stop, said Jan Halverson, an attorney for the hospital.

Attorneys for the baby’s parents, the county and the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic are expected to meet later this week to wrap up an agreement.

Natalie Hauschild, a Redwood Falls attorney representing Wiederholt, said, ″We might just be fighting over semantics. Everyone agrees the baby should be kept comfortable.″ Everyone also agrees that the child should receive antibiotics to fight infection, she said.

The use of tubes to aid the baby’s breathing has been contested, however. ″ There’s a question of what precisely is meant by intubation, and in what circumstances,″ Peterson said. ″The parties appear to be in agreement that it should be used for the baby’s comfort but not to keep him alive.″

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