Ohio Supreme Court Rules Baby Aiden Can Stay On Ventilator
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 3, 2005
COLUMBUS, OHIO--The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a lower court was wrong to appoint a guardian to decide that 14-month-old Aiden Stein should be taken off life support so he would die.
In its 4-3 decision, the court determined that Summit County Probate Court had no authority to allow a temporary guardian to decide to end the child's life when the parents' rights had not been permanently terminated.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote: "It is not overly dramatic to observe that this case presents a life-and-death issue and implicates one of our society's most precious and fundamental rights - the rights of parents in their relationship with their children."
Aiden's parents, Matt Stein and Arica Heimlich, called the ruling a victory that could save their son's life.
"I'm almost at a loss for words," Stein told the Mansfield News Journal. "It feels so good that there were some people in Ohio who care. The poor little guy has been fighting for his life and all he needed was someone to come in and help him out."
Doctors at Akron Children's Hospital have maintained that Aiden is blind, deaf and in a "persistent vegetative state" from injuries he sustained last March -- injuries they say are consistent with shaken-baby syndrome. Hospital officials believe Aiden will not recover from his injuries and that it is in his best interest to remove the ventilator that keeps him alive.
Doctors also claim that the parents have a conflict of interest in wanting Aiden kept alive because at least one of them could face criminal charges if the infant dies. The doctors successfully petitioned Summit County Probate Court to appoint the temporary guardian who sided with doctors in requesting Aiden be removed from mechanical life supports.
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 and the parents rights have not been terminated.
Aiden's parents argue that the child is alert, that he responds to them, opens his eyes, holds up his own head, and follows sounds. They believe he will recover more if given more time.
"I don't know if he'll ever talk," Mr. Stein said. "I don't know if he'll walk. But his basic functions are there and he knows what's going on. I guess only time will tell the rest."
Linda Kersker, attorney for court-appointed guardian Linda Kaforey, told the Toledo Blade that no decision had been made whether to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.