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March 28, 2011

What would you decide?


In June of 2006, Abbie Dorn gave birth to triplets: a daughter, Esti and two sons, Reuvi and Yossi at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. What should have been a joyous event turned into a tragedy when, as a result of a series of medical errors, Abbie Dorn suffered brain damage. As a result, Abbie is paraplegic and in a “minimally conscious state”. Abbie is able to communicate by blinking in response to yes/no questions, although she doesn’t do so consistently according to neurologist Dr. Angela Hays.

Abbie, following her injury
After these catastrophic events, the father of the triplets, Dan, divorced his wife. The couple is separated not only by virtue of divorce, but also as a result of distance. Abbie’s parents care for her in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while Dan and the triplets live in Los Angeles. Abbie’s parents are petitioning the court to require regular visitation between Abbie and her children. They believe that Abbie has a constitutional right to see her children, which she “desperately wants to do”. Dan is resisting, saying that he doesn’t want to be be "forced to do anything by the court for a woman in a vegetative state."

According to this article Abbie’s mother, Susan Cohen, “believes in miracles, prays that her daughter will improve and wears a bracelet with the Yiddish inscription Tracht gut vet zein gut, ‘think good, it will be good,’" whereas Dan says Abbie is "’100% not there’ and that it is damaging to the children to hear what his attorney Vicki J. Greene described as ‘false hope.’"

In December 2010, Dan took the children to visit Abbie for four days. It had been three years since Dan or the children, now nearly 5 years old, had seen Abbie. Dan and the Cohens offer different descriptions of the visit and its impact on the children.

According to Abbie’s parents, the children were happy to see their mother. They were unafraid, smiled at her, called her Mommy, touched her, were affectionate, and made her art projects.

Dan acknowledged that the children had enjoyed the visit, although he said that was because he was with them throughout the visit. But Dan also says the Reuvi and Esti became “clingy” after the visit and Reuvi also began bed-wetting.

Dan also acknowledged that he had not sought help from medical or mental health professionals after the visit, nor did he inform the children’s court-appointed attorney that there had been changes in the children’s behavior after the visit. In addition, Dan acknowledged that no one at the children’s school had noted changes in the children after the visit. According to Dan, he had spoken to the children about their mother until they were nearly 4 years old. Dan also acknowledged that he had done little to prepare their children for meeting Abbie. They had not seen pictures of their mother, nor had he spoken to them about the life he and Abbie shared before their birth.

Dan also admitted that he had told the children that their mother wouldn’t know if they were there or not. He said, "I told them she loved them very much, that a doctor made a mistake and, because of that, she can't move and she can't talk, and there's not any interaction you can have with her. I'm pretty sure I also said she's blind." Abbie is not blind, however, according to the neurologist who examined Abbie.

Dan Dorn
Dan says "I'm not refusing to have visitation with their mother. I want it to be on my own terms where I am not having to co-share the responsibilities of raising the children with my former mother-in-law, where it's me giving the children information the way I see it." He says, "I would be happy to do anything to make sure that the children were happy… as I have for five years."

Many questions are raised by this case. As the L.A. Times article says, they include these: “What is a parent? What is communication? What is a relationship? Does a child, not yet 5, benefit from visiting a mother who neither moves nor speaks? Can that woman — Abbie Dorn, 34 — think, feel, love, want? How is it even possible to know?” And of course, the 2500 or so miles that separate the children from their mother is a factor which is not inconsiderable.

What do you think? Think about it for just a bit before you continue and then, to find out what the court’s ruling on this matter was, scroll down to the bottom of this post…

Dan and Abbie Dorn in happier days

Abbie, taken prior to her brain injury


What did the court decide?

First off, let me say that I can't help but be reminded of the Biblical story of Solomon being asked to decide another contentious case in 1 Kings 3:16-2:
Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

Just such wisdom and sensitivity must be required to render a decision in the case of Daniel and Abbie Dorn and their children.

Although a full hearing has not yet been scheduled, the judge’s preliminary ruling in this case was reported in this follow-up article to the one mentioned above. Judge Frederick C. Shaller said that it would be in the children’s best interest to have a relationship with their mother and that, indeed, it would be psychologically harmful for them not to do so. He said, "The court finds that even though [Abbie] cannot interact with the children, the children can interact with [Abbie] — and that the interaction is beneficial for the children. They can touch her, see her, bond with her, and can carry those memories with them."

Dan had removed all pictures of Abbie from his home. Judge Shaller ordered Dan to set up a table which is "’open and available to the children 24 hours a day, 7 days per week in his home devoted to the children's mother’ and to place photographs and other mementoes of her on it.” Furthermore, as a result of Shaller’s decision, Dan has been ordered to take the children to South Carolina for 5 consecutive days each year. In addition, there are to be monthly teleconference “visits” via Skype.

Judge Shaller also ruled that Dan “has a right to control the visits, decide which extended family members the children see and dictate what information they receive. He ordered Susan Cohen, Dorn's mother, to refrain from telling the children that the disabled woman communicates or that someday she could recover”.

What do you think about this case? What do you think about the judge’s decision? Would you have arrived at a different conclusion about what is in the best interests of the children and their parents?

As for me, I commend Judge Shaller for navigating dangerous waters to come up with a decision that seems to respect the rights of all concerned. I would add one thing: that the children be evaluated by a therapist at regular intervals throughout the first year of implementing the decision, at which point the Court should review the therapist's report to determine if further counseling should be required.

I'll be interested to see what you have to say!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

H/T to Lisa of Roerdink Ramblings" for pointing out this story.

58 comments:

  1. What a sad case!

    New follower from the blog hop!

    Frugally Green Mom

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  2. Oh my goodness, what a story!

    I couldn't find the post about the Blog Hop, so I am leaving my note here....

    BLOG HOPping around - I am now a follower of your blog, wont you also follow me?? ~KM
    Krafty Max Originals

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  3. wow, this really hits a nerve. Being a mother I can not imagine losing my children in such a way. I agree with the judge that the children have a right to see their mother and a need to do so. I wish there were some stated rights about the grandparents because I believe they also have a right to see the children as long as there is not harm. I also think that the father divorcing her right after her injury sucks.

    New Follower

    http://bigjandlittlej.blogspot.com

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  4. I can't even imagine having to deal with this situation. I am really happy that the judge rules the way he did. I think it is important for the children to have a relationship with their mother any way that they can. I can't imagine not even having pictures of their mother up!

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  5. I think the judge made a wise decision. I think it will be a positive thing for the children.

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  6. This is a very difficult decision and should not be fodder for the masses. MPO

    For myself, I have instructed my family - specifically my husband - that when I am no longer living a quality life: SUCH AS A LIFE THAT IS ALIVE, then I want to go home ... I do not want to be kept alive by the state mandated hospital staffs playing God. And I would not want my parents coming between my husband and myself in difficult and dire straits.

    I believe ALL decisions like this belong to the spouses only! Not the parents, not the children, not the courts.

    ~Val

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  7. what a sad case. I am a new follower from the Alexa Blog Hop.

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  8. Hello from your newest follower,
    Jackie Ladner
    Found you through Mommy D's Blog Hop!
    Our blog is located at http://www.southernbellesshoppes.com and you are welcome to join us at http://www.southernbellesshoppes.ning.com

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  9. Wow. What a story. So many things like this go on...thank you for bringing this to the fore.

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  10. I had heard about the case, but never heard the final decision. I'm so thankful that the judge ruled the way he did. Such a heartbreaking case.

    Following you on GFC. Thanks for visiting my blog! Have a great week. :)

    Mickey
    A Helicopter Mom

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  11. I personally agree with the judge's decision EXCEPT I don't think he should have said that about not telling the children about the communication and recovery. We all deserve hope. It might have even helped Abbie.

    God Bless,
    PJ

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  12. IMHO I think the judge ruled correctly. Kids need to interact with their mom even though she can't vice versa. I like the way the husband's feelings, needs were considered too. If I were him I'd sue the bejeebers the obstetric team.
    The woman kind of reminds me of a slightly less severe case of Terry Shiavo. Wonder what www.terisfight.org would think of this case.

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  13. I am a new follower from Mommy D's.

    I hadn't heard about this case before. It was definitely interesting. I am sort of sitting on the fence about it. Mainly because I have worked in the medical field for over 20 years and have seen patients who were in complete vegetative states that family members would swear up and down were blinking in response to their questions. Only to see that it was their body's natural movements that the families are seeing and grasping on to.

    Like Val from The Owl Nest, I too have talked to my family and will not have any type of assistance to continue to exist. Since my family is made up primarily of medical providers, we all agree to the same thing.

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  14. when I started feeling reading this, I thought wow, how could the husband act that way? Then I realised that he was behaving as though his wife was dead, and was in a state of bereavement, which in a sense is true. Some people try to deal with bereavement by removing all mementoes of their loved one. Unable to cope with the pain of loss, they try to live as though they had never existed.
    The judge made the right decision - I hope being forced to acknowledge his wife's existence and condition not only to the children but to himself, will begin the healing process for them all.

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  15. What a sad case! I cannot imagine losing my kids...or being married to someone that would even think about taking them away from me!

    I am so happy to hear the judge's ruling.

    I am a new follower from Mommy D's blog hop.
    http://uniquescrapdesignsblog.blogspot.com/

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  16. Love your blog! Following you from blog hop.. I'm Opal from www.opalstevens.blogspot.com, hope you can check it out sometime.. :D

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  17. Sad case.
    We are your newest follower from Mommy D's blog hop.
    Check us out
    www.mightytwosave.blogspot.com

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  18. I bless your daughter with all the love that is in the world. As for the father, he should be ashamed of himself. To not allow his children to see their mom is despicable. He should not have divorced her.
    For better of worse, right? He is not a man, but a coward. This is when his wife needs him the most. If the shoe was on the other foot, she would not have left him. I came over from Mommy D's Kitchen. I will keep up this. http://www.TheSendOutCardsLady.com

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  19. Just wanted to pop by and say thanks for linking up on the Mystery Post Blog Hop on MommyDsKitchen.com this week!

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  20. Following from Catch a Wave Wednesday would love for you to swing by 2 Against 1 if you get a chance.

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  21. Thank you for participating in the Get Wired Blog Hop. Have a great Wednesday!

    Vickie

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  22. How heart breaking! Will be praying for this gal coz with God all things are possible. Newest follower from blog hops.

    ~Cathy Kennedy, Children's Author
    The Tale of Ole Green Eyes

    Check out, Today’s Post

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  23. That's a tragedy!

    Thanks so much for dropping by the Be-Bop-A Blog Hop! I'm a follower and I hope you'll stop by again soon! Have a great day! :)

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  24. New Follower from the blog hop, could you follow back when you have time, http://sonyasparks.blogspot.com

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  25. What a difficult case! I also commend the judge. I had read about this briefly online but appreciate your sharing the details here. I do think the children interacting with their mother might help them appreciate the value of each human life . . .

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  26. This story makes us stop and realize how fortunate we really are. Thanks for sharing.

    Hi, I'm a new GFC follower. Please follow back on my blog which has lots of free information about money. Thanks!

    Malinda

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  27. Hi, I'm following you back from the Wed blog hop!

    What a sad, sad case this is indeed. It is so shocking that the father would remove all mementos of the mother from his home--how terrible! I'm praying for these children and hope they can form a meaningful relationship with their mother, regardless of whether she improves or not. Thanks for posting this info.

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  28. New follower. When you get the chance please follow me back.. http://realadventuresfromamomof3.blogspot.com/

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  29. This is a really interesting case. I think that the judge did a good job navigating a difficult decision... and I also applaud him for putting in the requirement of the photos of the children's mother being accessible to the children. My own s.o.'s mother died when he was a teenager. His father is now happily remarried to a wonderful loving woman. However, they do not speak of my s.o.'s mother. There are no pictures. There has been no contact with her extended family until very recently (and then only initiated by us as adults). I know that this complete break with his past and this feeling that he was not free to openly mourn and talk about and remember his mother was very harmful to him. On the one hand, he was a teen with many more memories than this family's triplet babies would have of their mother. On the other hand, he has the emotional wherewithal of an adult, yet he still found the complete break with her memory to be hurtful. So I applaud the judge for protecting this memory of a mother--who after all, deserves to be remembered as part of her children's life. Even if their father is ultimately responsble for raising them.


    Found you through the get wired wednesday blog hop. Check out my blog www.lovemymrmason.blogspot.com if you have a chance (blogging about happiness, decorating, fashion, books, and other things that make me smile--all from the viewpoint of a hopefully-soon-to-be-engaged, southern, babygovernmentlawyer)

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  30. Just stopping by to follow you from the blog hop. Hope you'll come visit me, too! http://hisperfectpromises.blogspot.com/

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  31. Love your blog name - that's my favorite scripture!

    Doing the blog hop thing...would love a follow back!

    www.heavenlyhumor.blogspot.com

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  32. This was a very touching story. And I agree with the judge. Especially about this statement he made: "The court finds that even though [Abbie] cannot interact with the children, the children can interact with [Abbie] — and that the interaction is beneficial for the children. They can touch her, see her, bond with her, and can carry those memories with them."

    Thank you for sharing! I'm sure this story will be on my mind for a while.

    Take care,
    Alexandra
    http://ropcorn.com/

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  33. Visiting from 6WS - I don't know where to even begin to respond to this post. I think the judge has ruled fairly, however I find it tragic that it was necessary to involve the courts.

    My angst is with the ex-partner, his wife lost her entire world through medical errors and he took the one last thing from her, her children. What sort of a man (who obviously loved her once) has to have the courts rule that she deserves to see her children. Shame on him I say.
    A mother is a mother, no matter what problems she may suffer from and her children deserve to know who she is.

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  34. Newest follower through GFC weekend blog hop

    http://40plussinglebbw.blogspot.com/

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  35. Tough choices for all concerned.

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  36. As doctors learn more about brain injuries and technologies develop to help the patients communicate, we should not be too quick to declare that "nobody is home upstairs." Dan is the one who needs counseling. He is hiding behind his kids and not dealing with the loss of the relationship he had with his wife before the medical accident. If he really loved her and was willing to do God's will, he would not have moved clear across the country from her. I can think of no better way for the children to grow into compassionate adults than by having a relationship with their mother. The woman's parents are with her daily and can "read" her better than Dan. I bet the children can "read" her, too. The judge did pretty well over all, but should have required counseling for Dan.

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  37. Well...what i see is an husband who took is wife for dead. She is not dead and her children need her...This Dad will have a lot of resentment issues when the kids are grown up if they don't see the Mom...The judge was right. i feel like she is just a prisoner in her body but she is still there. She is teaching people love, sympathy.
    There is a purpose for everything.
    Enjoyed my visit very much and would love a follow back. happy blog hop and Sunday !
    Xo
    Frenchy
    http://lechateaudesfleurs.blogspot.com/

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  38. How very sad.

    Thank you for stopping by and participating in my Having Fun Blog Hop this past Thursday! I am a new follower of yours. :-)

    Have a great night!

    Jodi
    A Mom Having Fun
    Helping Moms Work From Home

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  39. I think that these children won't be children forever, and as adults, if they did not have the opportunity to see their mother, they would feel awful about that. If she passed away in the next few years, how will it make these children feel once they are grown, to know that they had a mother and that they could have spent time with her, loved her, showed love for her...but yet their father didn't think she was "there" enough to benefit?

    Another thing...brain injuries...they are not all alike. Each is unique. There have been mothers who were brought OUT of their vegetative states due to interaction from their babies/children. To keep this woman's children away from her is cruel. Just because one's body does not work does NOT mean their mind and logical thinking and emotions are not working. Most of the time, these people are "trapped" inside a body that does not work, is not able to communicate, yet they think and hear and see just the same as the rest of us.

    One last thing...I just have to wonder what kind of man this "father" is -- to divorce his wife once this awful thing happened to her? I mean, whatever happened to "in sickness and in health" ?? I don't know...love stays, in my book. It's called commitment. It's called marriage. What will the children think of their father once they are old enough to understand that he divorced her shortly after her brain was injured while giving birth to them? I just have to wonder about that.

    I saw your link on the Mom's Blog Hop. This was a very interesting post! I am your newest follower :)

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  40. What a sad sad case. The gall of the father makes me want to scream. That woman bore his children and he did this to her? What about for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Thanks for sharing!

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  41. I'm new to UBP and am just stopping by to say hello. I didn't get to read the entire story, but your blog reminds me of my own...as I post a lot about tough times an issues.

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  42. Sad story. :( Newest follower from the get wired Wednesday hop. Hope you'll take a moment and hop over to my blog as well. :) Have a great day! http://cherishedhandmadetreasures.blogspot.com/

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  43. Such a sad case! How dare the father behave that way? Does he not remember his vows? Thanks so much for sharing.

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  44. This story moved me to tears. I
    am glad that the judge made the
    decision that he did. and the father
    ought to be ashamed of himself.

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  45. Oh I forgot....

    Following you from F.M.B.T!
    Hope you visit me and return the
    follow!:0)

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  46. Truly a sad case. I have to say I also commend the judge. I feel it is important for the children to know who their mother is now and who she was before.
    I agree they should be in therapy especially before they figure out this happened during their birth.
    I am already a follower just stopping by via Get Wired Wednesday to say hello.

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  47. WOW, Just shared this story again via Facebook and Twitter.
    Following you again this week...from Mommy D's.
    Wishing you a blessed week,
    Jackie
    ps
    Wanted to make sure you knew we opened a 2nd edtion of Southern Belles Shoppes- http://www.southernbellesshoppes.ning.com - join us please.
    Blog: http://www.southernbellesshoppes.com

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  48. New follower from the blog hop!Interesting.
    http://newyearsresolutionexercise.blogspot.com/

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  49. Here from the UBP11! I have 4 giveaways running you could enter. barb g. directorylanesuperstore(at)gmail.com

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  50. Hi. I am your newest follower! I found you on the blog hop:) Lovely blog!!! You can find me at www.bouffeebambini.blogspot.com

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  51. Loving this party. I have am trying to read as many blogs as I can. I have already found some jewels.
    I would love to read every single one...Everyone has a story.
    Hope you will stop by...I have some extra giveaways that require nothing but a comment...
    Teresa
    http://teresa-grammygirlfriend.blogspot.com/

    http://grammyababychangeseverything.blogspot.com/

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  52. Wow, what a story. Crawling in from Mailbox Monday, better late than never! e-mail subscribe.

    http://darwinsfrg.blogspot.com
    A little of this A little of that...

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  53. Hi! New follower from the blog hop. Have a goodnight! :-) www.MeasuringFlower.com

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  54. Hi! I’m belatedly stopping by from the UBP. Nice to meet you! I am a new follower : )
    I have two blogs, and I’d love for you to stop by when you get a minute. Thanks!

    http://giveawaycorner.blogspot.com/ (A free giveaway every weekday)
    http://anne-somekindofwonderful.blogspot.com/ (Family blog)

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  55. Thank you so much for including Makes My Monday in your Monday Blog Hops! Twinfatuation also hosts a weekly Way Back When-esday meme....please consider listing us on Wednesday, too! Many many thanks!

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  56. Thanks for joining our Terrific Thursday Blog Hop last week. Be sure to join in the blog hop fun this week! Blog Hop post is up. :)

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  57. I'm surprised by the number of comments that don't actually pertain to the blog itself, but rather inviting to other blogs. Interesting.

    In terms of the blog content, I am pleased by the judge's ruling. Those children need a relationship with their mother, and she needs one with them.

    Kudos to the judge!

    cj

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  58. Hi there! Found you on a Blog Hop - now following! Would love a follow back at http://www.toeuropewithkids.com/
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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