Ohio Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Baby Stein's Life
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 28, 2004
COLUMBUS, OHIO--The day before Aiden Stein's first birthday, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments over whether he should be allowed to continue living with the help of a mechanical ventilator.
Aiden's parents, Matt Stein and Arica Heimlich, are challenging a probate court's decision to have the ventilator removed so the child will die.
Doctors at Akron Children's Hospital claim that Aiden is in a "persistent vegetative state" from injuries he sustained in March -- injuries they say are consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Hospital officials believe it is in Aiden's best interest to remove the ventilator that keeps him alive. They and a court-appointed guardian were granted permission by Summit County Probate Judge Bill Spicer to do so.
Police suspect that Mr. Stein caused his son's injuries. They have not ruled out his mother as a suspect in causing earlier traumas that doctors claim they have detected. Charges have not been filed against either parent.
Hospital officials and the guardian believe that the parents have a conflict of interest in wanting Aiden kept alive because they could face criminal charges if he dies.
Aiden's parents argue that their parental rights were violated when the guardian was appointed and decided to have his ventilator removed. They also claim that Aiden responds to their stimulation and want him moved out of the hospital.
The issue before the Supreme Court on Tuesday was whether or not the court-appointed medical guardian could legally end life-supporting measures.
Under Ohio law, life support can be removed from an adult if the person is determined to be in a persistent vegetative state for at least 12 months. The probate court in Aiden's case authorized the removal of life support in April, just a few weeks after he was admitted to the hospital. The law does not address children in the same circumstances.
"This is a curious situation where the child has less protection in the law than an adult," Justice Paul Pfeifer said during Tuesday's hearing. "This child's life could have been terminated if this court had not stepped in."
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, some of the justices wondered whether a court-appointed guardian could have life support removed if the parents have been considered unsuitable. Aiden's parents still have custody of him, but they claim they gave up guardianship on medical issues so their son could receive the treatment he needed.
The court could decide that the parental rights of Aiden's parents need to be terminated before the guardian can make such life-or-death decisions, or they could send the case back to the lower court to be reheard.
A decision is expected by the end of the year. In the meantime, Aiden is to remain on the ventilator at the hospital.
The Akron Beacon Journal noted that Judge Spicer has pioneered the state's right-to-die legislation. At one point during the hearing, Justice Pfeifer asked the guardian's attorney if Spicer has "an aggressive view . . . on this subject."
After the 30-minute hearing, Aiden's parents spoke with reporters.
"We love him and want to see him grow up," Matt Stein said.
"Justices weigh baby's fate" (Akron Beacon Journal)
"Aiden Stein: Hospital Wants Baby's Life Support Removed" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)