Judge Hears Arguments Over Aiden Stein's Custody
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 8, 2005
MANSFIELD, OHIO--Arguments were heard Monday over whether or not custody of 16-month-old Aiden -- and the decision to remove his ventilator -- should stay with his family.
Richland County Juvenile Court Judge Ron Spon could decide to terminate the custody rights of Aiden's 22-year-old parents, Matt Stein and Arica Heimlich.
If Spon does that, permanent custody of Aiden would then go to Children Services. The final decision on pulling his ventilator, however, would rest with court-appointed guardian Ellen Kaforey -- who has already called for the baby's life support to be withdrawn.
A Children Services case worker testified that the parents have followed the requirements of a case plan to get their child back, including psychological evaluations and completing five of six parenting classes. But, an attorney for Children Services said that as long as Mr. Stein insists he did not harm his son, the agency cannot help the parents.
Matt Stein's mother has come forward offering to take custody of Aiden. Ms. Heimlich's mother, on the other hand, held an impromptu press conference, telling reporters that she believes her grandson should be removed from life support.
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 15, which they say are consistent with shaken-baby syndrome. Hospital officials believe Aiden will not recover 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 baby 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 yet been filed against either parent.
Aiden's parents argue that the child is alert, that he responds to them, opens his eyes, holds up his own head, follows sounds, and even sits up. They believe he will recover more if given more time. They also assert that Aiden's injuries occurred during his birth.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in December that a lower court had no authority to appoint a temporary guardian to decide to end the child's life when the parents' rights had not yet been permanently terminated.
"Judge reviews boy's custody" (Akron Beacon Journal)
"Sides fight for custody of 'brain dead' infant" (Marion Star)
"Aiden Stein: Hospital Wants Baby's Life Support Removed" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)