July 8th, 2010
04:27 PM ET

Visiting brain-damaged mom, a collision of instincts

I am not sure which instinct took over first. When I heard the story of Abbie Dorn, I remember listening with my "head" as a neurosurgeon, and also listening with my "heart" - as a dad. Like you probably will, I thought of Abbie's three children. I have three of my own.

Abbie was young, recently married, and wanting to start a family. It did not happen easily. She underwent IVF, and was finally told she was pregnant. Triplets. It was the most exciting day of her life.  Abbie's mother told me all of this, because Abbie cannot. You see, something went terribly wrong during the delivery. There was bleeding, more than two liters. Abbie's heart failed, and for too long her brain went without oxygenated blood.

Abbie survived, but she was left in a state where she can barely move, cannot speak and only blinks her eyes.  As you will see as I examine Abbie,  it is this blinking that is now at the heart of a bitter legal controversy.

Abbie's parents, her therapist and her lawyer believe she is communicating through those blinks. They believe she is letting them know: "I want to see my children." Her husband, who has since divorced her, thinks otherwise. He thinks that there is no way she could be communicating, and that it would be damaging for the children to see their mother in this condition. He worries the triplets, who are now 4 years old, might one day blame themselves for what happened to her, at the time of their birth.

There are gray areas of medicine, and that is especially true  when it comes to the brain. Doctors don't agree on Abbie's condition. And, now to try and settle this, medicine and the legal system will collide.

Of course, when sitting back and thinking about this whole situation, my dad instinct took over once again. I wondered if the focus regarding Abbie was misplaced. Regardless of her condition or her ability to communicate or interact, do her children have a right to see their mother? And, does Abbie have a right to be with her children? There are no easy answers, but I am eager to hear what you have to say.

Program Note: See Dr. Sanjay Gupta's full report on Abbie Dorn tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.

soundoff (682 Responses)
  1. Lilly C

    As a mother, I believe my children needs to know their parents regardless if their parents are brain-damaged or not...I honestly believe that a child should be aware of the people who provided them with their DNA coding. Children who were concived with fertility treatments should have some idea on who those people are...if for nothing more, just to get a clear picture of what they might have inherited. After reading this article, it really makes me pity the children...they are the real victum of this tragedy. I feel that the father is projecting his own feeling that it is the children's fault that their mother is brain-damaged when IT IS NOT the children's fault. Abbie made the decision on her own to receive IVF treatment so that she can have children with her husband (hopefully she and her husband have mutually agreed to have IVF treatments before she tried to get pregnant) These children ususally would not automatically think that they could be responsible for their mother's medical condition if they had not waited so long to visit her...it's sad that they will likely think they might be responsible since their father have shielded them away from their own mother...if the kids were around their mom as much as possible at birth, they will not make a big deal about it...there are plenty of children who have parents that are disable in some way or another and they do not think it is their fault that their parents are the way they are...Think about the women who had poliowhen they were children and decided to conceive and give birth to children when they are adults...those kids know that they did not cause their biological mother's conditions...I slipped two discs in my back giving birth to my biological child...it was not my child's fault and I will not tolerate anyone who tries to make my child feel responsible for my injury. It's harder now for Abbie's children to not ever wonder if it was their fault, but it is not too late for them to know their mother and with good guidance and support they can learn to accept that it was just a tragic accident and that as newborn babies it never was their fault. As a mother, I can say that I just want my children to be as healthy they are born to be and to continue to grow to be as decent of a human being as they can be.

    July 9, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Marjorie Rothman

    I know Abby from growing up in Canton, OH. Abby was an excellent water-skiing ballet dancer. If anyone's brain could survive brain damage, I think it would be hers. Good luck getting to see the children you sacrificed everything to have.

    July 9, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christy

      Marjorie....Could you be more of a jerk??

      July 9, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse |
  3. don

    I hope someone at some point has asked Abby to blink TWICE for yes and once for no.
    Dr.Gupta is pretty sharp but his scene with Abby was a little bit more "Fristian" than I expected.
    Abby's parents may need to be more careful in assuming she is blinking answers to their questions
    but their wish to bring Abby's children to see their mother is very appropriate.
    Maybe a scrapbook with before and after photos of her would help them ease into the story...

    July 9, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Josh

    This is ridiculous. Whether or not she's fit to raise children or have any degree of custody, Abby deserves time with her children and her children deserve time with their mom. On top of that, any argument about the potential trauma to the kids by knowing the truth of what happened to their mom will pale on comparison to the trauma they will experience when they eventually find out what really happened. The resentment and irreplaceable sense of loss will be much worse that knowing their mom, knowing the truth and knowing she suffered this tragedy. Not knowing is always worse.

    July 9, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. william wallace

    The childen having lost one parent in their upbringing
    the father should be given the ultimate support, thus
    preventing the children from an loss of both parents.

    It a great wrong in closing the heart to the father, he
    has an burden as great responsibility unto the future.
    He does not deserve the negative attitude comments
    have brought, one must be more open to his situation.

    It well saying the mother should have rights of the
    children in her presence. However it would put an
    dire stuation in place for all concerned, in bringing
    a riiver of tears where the heart in finding little joy.

    July 9, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Christy

    This so called "father" should have HIS parental rights TERMINATED. These babies should be raised, if at all possible, by their maternal GRANDPARENTS. With regular visits with Mom. What if something, heaven forbid, should happen to one of these babies if Dad gets full custody, leaving them handicapped/brain-damaged??? Will he throw them away too?? This idiot shouldn't be allowed to raise HAMPSTERS let alone 3 babes !! ANY JUDGE that sides with this moron is even more of a moron for doing so.

    July 9, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lee

    This is very sad. The father should be ashamed of himself, what he could be afraid of? I feel that by preparing them and alot of communication, theres absolutely no reason why they should be kept away. Children will surprise you – there is no question about it, they need time with their mom. Also in regards to the children blaming themselves for her condition, let's think about that for a moment, why on earth would a 4yr old think it's thier fault..I know – If they are told its thier fault. I hope for the sake of the kids, they NEVER hear that by a family member. I agree with comments about just bringing them and saying, this is mom. They'll have questions sure, thats where preparation comes in and maybe having a counseller available right there for a few visits-if Dad's that worried. Very sad fact that sometimes this happens or worse the mother dies in childbirth. There's not one person I know that wouldn't give thier life for thier children, including myself. I can also say, once those babies realize father kept them away from mom, they will be angry. He can say all he wants but it's a fact, one day they'll realize whats going on and all thats going to do is make things worse. He needs to step up realize he's doing the wrong thing.

    July 9, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. daffypanda

    The children are 4 years old. They n=know that their is a mom. Why not ask the children what they want. Tell them their mother is very sick and cannot communicate with them. Ask the kids then if they want to see their mother. Tell them if they are not ready that when they are they can go see her. If they do want to see her then by all means allow it. The children should have a say in what they want and do not want. i am very sick and my children have seen me go down hill and there have been times when they did not want to visit me in the hospital because they did not want to see the machines. I have totally accepted that they did not want to see me like that. It has to be what the children want and not what the father, mother, or grandparents want because it is the children that have to live with the decision the most.

    July 9, 2010 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jon

    I agree with some here about the children being too young to understand what's going on. When they grow older they will understand it's not their fault, and when they're young they won't understand it anyway and will be too occupied with being kids. I think it's the father that's more disturbed than it's the children. He's projecting his own fears onto his kids.

    July 9, 2010 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jennifer

    Of course they should see their mother.

    July 9, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mom of 7

    I am the parent/caregiver of a son who sustained a severe brain injury at the age of 19, in 2006. Sam is in a condition very similar to Abbie's, he cannot speak or move more than his thumb with purpose. Sam blinks to communicate, and has just been provided an "eye-gaze" speech computer in the last 2 days. Upon meeting Sam, people assume he is in a vegetative state, but they couldn't be more incorrect. Sam can calibrate and begin to operate the computer on his own. He opened the speech page, and answered "yes" when asked if he wanted to go grocery shopping. We are thrilled, as he has the chance now to communicate with those around him.

    Sam interacts with his family (he is the youngest of 7), and his 5 nieces. We have never hidden Sam from the girls, and they are better for it. Sensitive to his needs, they greet him when they arrive, hug and kiss him at bedtime..the oldest reads to Sam..what a wonderful opportunity to care for another Abbie's children are missing. These lessons are lifelong. One of Sam's nieces is 9, two are 4 and one is 3..and the love between them all is evident to all.

    Please do not judge by appearances and assumptions..those with brain injuries are individuals who have suffered illness or injury, and are as deserving of their human rights as you and I.

    July 9, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sofrito

      I am so glad that Sam got the eye-gaze computer. Your instinct never to give up on your child was right. I hope that now that he can communicate more easily, the world opens up for him and he can lead a happy, productive life, according to his abilities, knowing that his family loves him and will never abandon him. Kudos to you.

      July 10, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    I guess what i'm saying is that parents project their own fears onto their kids often. Often what happens is the kids start to mirror their paretns behaviour and it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy. It's used as a scapegoat when future problems arise.

    July 9, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mom of 7

    If you are interested in what a family, and an adult child go through when injured this severely, please visit Sam at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/samandersen. The struggle to help medical professionals grasp the fact that there is a person inside the failed body they see before them is long and difficult. But in the end, they have come to understand Sam is an individual. As are many, many others in the same position.

    July 9, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. huh

    Gupta is a opportunist doing whatever he can to profit from people problems. He should have his medical license taken away.

    July 9, 2010 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Traci

    Does the father blame the children? I hope the father can get professional help to get him through this tragedy of losing his wife as he knew her, so he can then help his children have a relationship with their mother. The children should meet her as young as possible. The older they are, the harder it will be for them. And if the mother passes away from her condition, they will never have the chance to meet the loving woman who brought them into this world. My best to her and all of her family and friends.

    July 10, 2010 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Monica Gee

    This husband is not coping. He just abandoned his wife and divorced her. He needed some support to be able to deal with this but it looks like he didn't get it. I have been a nurse for 25 years. When you have this kind of tragedy, you never know how a person may or may not recover. I would not be surprised if contact with the children would actually help her improve. Patients can sometimes hear everything that is going on around them but not be able to respond. This case is tragic on so many levels. Not only for the lack of support to the father, but for the terrible abandonment of this lady. It's not too late.

    July 10, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JC

    and what happened to the saying when you get married "till death do us part" shes not dead yet...and that bastard divorced her. There is a red carpet rolled out waiting for his entry.

    July 10, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Vix

    I have heard of this story a while back and in my opinion this is terribly wrong. We allow abusive, drug addicted, dysfunctional parents have visitation of their kids with supervision. Had these children had contact with their mother from day one there would be no need to wonder if they would feel guilt over this happening during childbirth. In my opinion there is no reason whatsoever for them to be separated. What is this father going to do when they are old enough to start asking questions, blame him for not allowing them to be with her while she is alive if she dies suddenly one day? That is what is going to be more damaging to those children, not the fact that she is disabled by their birth.

    July 10, 2010 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Waterdances

    My parent suffered a severe anoxic brain injury (enough to leave him in a persistent vegetative state). He was unable to speak, blink or move on command. And yet, I knew he was able to hear and comprehend me...at times. The testing by neurologists doesn't seem to address the fact that his responsiveness and awareness to me varied on a minute by minute basis. Many behaviors, however, indicated he was listening. I strongly suspected he was "in there" because of the characteristic microexpressions I saw him use, that he always used, when conveying specific emotions. The day I KNEW he was listening and aware was when he heard me recount an incident from his childhood to his nurse. I happened to glance in his direction and he was giving me a look of such intensity rivaling curious infants, which took me aback. The look clearly indicated that someone had finally said something which he recognized. Unfortunately, as with many who suffer this catastrophic event, he died 6 months later from pneumonia.
    My point is that if, as I suspect, this lady is having at least episodes of lucid awareness, why oh why would she not be allowed to see the children which it effectively cost her her life to bear? If this were any other disability, would she be denied this right? If not, then why assume, to her detriment, that she is unaware?

    July 10, 2010 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Cerwenna

    At what point is someone too damaged to see thier children? Should the legal system even have a place in this? How about someone who has MS and over time becomes locked in thier own body and hospitalized? At what point do we take thier children away? Why is this even a question?

    As a parent I can understand the dad's motivation to protect his children, but if we bundle our children up in cotton and protect them from the facts of life (that terrible tragidies happen and we adjust and move on) we will be raising a bunch of adults who are just not capable of surviving in the real world.

    Perhaps dad can simply explain that thier mom is sick and not able to care for them. But ehy were very much wanted and are very much loved, by both mom and dad. There is no need to give them a full explination of how mom's injuries happened until they are older. Does dad think they will never find out? Ultimatly when they do, they will feel that guilt no matter what.

    I think it is a terrible thing to keep a mother from her children no matter what condition she is in, both she and they deserve a chance to kown that they are loved.

    July 10, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LMM

    My belief is that this is really more about the dad than the kids. More than likely, he feels guilt for divorcing the mother of his children. We don't live in a perfect world, and people become disabled everyday. If these children were allowed to visit their mom, they would grow up loving and accepting her. Children are resilient.

    I say to the dad, be humane about this; your wife sacrificed her life to bring these precious children into the world. Honor her rather than ostracizing her. One day you will pay when your children fully understand the decision you made in their supposed "best interest".

    July 10, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      If the children one day 'understand' the fathers decision, they will probably also understand how horrible and sudden this came upon him, and how it turned his life upside down in a vicious way. They will understand that he was a loving father who did the best he could under such circumstances, and that he wanted to protect them.

      You people can keep ASSUMING his kids will hate him, but thats just a self serving assumption. You have NO IDEA how his kids will think back on this. Most likely they will look back on their good life together and appreciate their father even MORE for his efforts. Yes, they will wish they had a mother, but they will STILL wish they had a 'normal' mother even if they grow up seeing her in her condition. They will ask 'why OUR mother?' They will ask all the questions and feel all the feelings, and if he is there with them through it they will love him all the same, regardless of his decision on their mother today.

      July 10, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  22. sofrito

    This is pretty simple to me. The husband is a d0uche.

    July 10, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Ituri

    Bunch of judgemental, idealistic fools. Probably well meaning fools, but fools nonetheless.

    Lets consider what we have. A father and wife, pregnant. Suddenly and shockingly, you have a father and three INFANTS, along with all medical considerations, a non-conscious wife in a shell of a body. The father must raise 3 infants alone while making life altering medical decisions for his wife.

    Fast forward a few years. You people want the father to stay with the wife like a fairy tale? He divorced her for both financial AND personal reasons. Nobody seems to want to look at the personal reasons, instead just calling him 'evil' and other such nonsense. Put yourself in his shoes. He's a father of 3 4 year old children, married to a woman who cannot socialize, or even understand whats going on arounnd her. He stays married... why? If he does stay married, should he never have s e x again? Never socialize outside his marriage? Marriage is about a partnership, and you can't have a partnership with a vegetative wife. Marriage is not about some insane ideal where a healthy man in the prime of his life stays married to a woman he can never speak to, sleep beside, or be with intimate with ever again. Would YOU stay married under those terms? My husband would NEVER ask me to if he became incurably unresponsive. What selfish little peons you all are, calling him 'evil' for wanting a LIFE 5 years after the accident.

    Fast forward further. The wifes case wins 2 MILLION in court for medical malpractice. You have a father of 3 working full time like anyone else, trying to feed 3 kids, save for 3 kids college. He was forced to sue his wifes estate, not his wife, because her parents also called him 'evil' for wanting a life, despite that estate belonging to the kids MOTHER. Wouldn't she want those kids supported? He deserved part of that settlement for the KIDS sake.

    So you idealistic nobodies can keep on judging, but you obviously prefer easy insults to considering the REALITY of this situation.

    And yes, I think the kids should be able to see their mother, but the father makes that choice. If nothing else, they can see her when they're no longer minors, if she's still being kept alive by tubes that is.

    July 10, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RJ

    Convicted murderers have the legal right to see their children, but not a disabled woman? Tragic.

    July 10, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      According to the actual doctors (and not the emotional reports of the grandparents on communicative blinking), the woman is not just 'disabled'. She does not have cognitive functions. Big distinction. She isn't just missing a limb or something simple like that, her MIND ITSELF is in question.

      July 10, 2010 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
  25. Cherrie

    I think that the kids should be allowed to see their mother and raised with the knowledge that things happen to cause disabilities in others. As long as they are taught that this was something that happened and was not their fault then there should be no reason why they should believe otherwise. It makes me wonder just what is being told to these children now. They're old enough to be asking where their mother is. This father should look to the future and wonder what his children are going to feel about him when they find out that their father kept their mother from them. What are they going to feel when they find out that they could have had all those years to know their mom and were denied this chance? I think that keeping this from them is going to be harder on them in the long run, as opposed to raising them around her without fear and blame.

    July 10, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. kaitka

    As harsh as it sounds, if the IVF had never been done, she would not have been carrying triplets and likely would not have had the hemorrhage. Although, had she not given birth in a hospital via cesarean (it wasn't mentioned, but 99.9% of triplets in America are born surgically), she likely would not have had the bleeding either. This is a story we will see increase greatly as IVF becomes the norm and cesarean rates climb to insanely high levels. It's time to recognize the risks of artificial impregnation and surgical birth!

    July 10, 2010 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. rhumba

    I speak as a mother only. My big question is why did visitation stop when the children were a year old? It seems that someone should have questioned this back then. To me, if the children had been seeing their mother all along, it would have been just a natural part of their lives. However, to keep them away until they're four, a time of extreme learning and questioning, and then expect that they won't be affected by visits to this woman whom they don't know as their mother could actually be harmful to them. In my opinion, the visitations should have continued throughout their lives, but it wasn't, and now they must be very careful at what age they reintroduce these children to their mother.

    July 10, 2010 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. annaliesa

    I hardly know how to start my comments. My heart aches for these three children and their mother. I ache for the confusing feelings that this father may be setting these children up for. My brother passed away four years ago after spening 25 years in a semi- vegatative state. Our neice used to take her daughter to visit with him. She started at an early age and would remind her that Uncle Chuckie had some problems but would know she was there. As she got older, the information would change and the conversations with Uncle Chuckie changed but he always would know she was there. She'd pat him on the hand as they "talked".
    If the father could find it in his heart to introduce the children to their mother, it should start it soon. Small children learn from others around them and I would hate for them to find out they could have known her before it's too late. The grandparents should not be allowed to inflluence the children speaking to their father about this.

    July 10, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Karen M.

    Robbing those children of the opportunity to see their mom is something that he will be held to account for by his children when they are old enough to look at the situation objectively. He got what he wanted, now wants to move on. Reminds me of the Terry Shivo case. If the shoe were on the other foot, and it was a man left for dead and the wife moved on, the males would be crying foul; they would declare her just as selfish and cold. And God forbid if she wasn't working when he fell ill.(...that she used him for money, etc.)

    July 10, 2010 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. InEvanston

    The father divorced Abbie about a year after the children were born and I believe he's remarried. Abbie's parents care for her. The father and Abbie live on opposite coasts of the country, so we aren't talking a small effort for the visit. Clearly, the father wants to pretend Abbie is dead except for...

    The father is suing Abbie's estate for child support. Abbie's estate has funds her parents won on her behalf in a lawsuit to provide for her long-term care. If the courts grant him the child support, I hope they couple that with visitation rights for Abbie and her children.

    I don't believe Abbie can say that she wants to see her children. With severe brain damage, she may not even remember she had them. But, the children should see their mother. She may not be the one caring for them now, but imagine the pain they would feel if they hear this story as they grow older? With the internet, there will be no way the father can keep it from them.

    Just imagine the harassment the father would take it they published his name and address.

    July 10, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. wyattsroddy

    If the children had been ALLOWED to see their mother all along there would not be an issue. They would just know their mother as she is today. And who knows, visiting with the children may spark some kind of response that no other person could spark in her. Good luck to the wonderful grandparents for their commitment to both their daughter and grandchildren.

    July 10, 2010 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Stephen Stevens

    Interesting story. . .someone must contact former Sen. Bill Frist and ask him what he thinks about Abbie's communication skills by watching her on TV. . .

    July 10, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Nicole


    July 10, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Gloria

    Sad that this topic has even been brought up for discussion. Of course the mother has a God given right to see her children and vice versa for the children. Cruel to think otherwise. Have we become a cruel society?

    July 10, 2010 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Katt

    What an incredibly selfish man this father is. His wife gave him the most beautiful of gifts – 3 precious children. And to do this she paid the ulimate price – she has lost her health, and her children! He is denying those children an amazing opportunity to learn compassion and caring for their mother. Their love could be the catalyst that brings this woman back! I am deeply saddened by this story and the absolute cruelty he is displaying. I would be more concerned about how his lack of caring and compassion for the mother of his children will affect them more so than them seeing their mother in her condition. He is missing a wonderful opportunity to teach his children the true meaning of love.

    July 11, 2010 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. WillM

    Mom should absolutely be able to see her children. No question about it. When I first heard about this some time ago, I could not believe it was happening. I'm still shaking my head. This makes no sense whatsoever.

    July 11, 2010 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. MT

    I can't imagine the ignorance of this Father to withhold what might possibly have been the only positive thing in his wife's limited life. Her progress might have been enhanced early on if she had been able to have some interaction with her children from day 1 and they would have grown up accepting this as their normal... This is so terribly sad for the triplets and their Mother! He should spend a lot of time preparing the children to visit, and let them form some type of attachment to her.

    July 11, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. TJ

    Whether or not the children blame themselves when they grow up for their mother's condition will be whether or not the significant people in their lives do or do not do a proper job of communicating with this message. Perhaps, this father, at this time, feels that way and is projecting feelings he has not worked out yet.
    As long as this woman is alive and as long as the children are being properly and lovingly cared for, they should be allowed to see each other. Children are not born with the notion of "different" and, their entire life can be one in which they accept this reality that is a part of their life as just that. But, it is paramount that they be raised by the right person with the right and healthy frame of mind. At some point, they will also need to deal with the end of life of their mother and this, too, can be a learning experience, a positive one, in the hands of the right person with the right frame of mind.

    July 11, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Meh

      Kids should be allowed to see their mother, but I'd be surprised if they wanted to more than once. This woman has never acted as their mother. Their father (or likely a nanny) is their mother at this point.

      July 11, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
  39. Enthal

    First off, the father's reason for divorcing the mother may be one of financial survival and not heartlessness.
    Here is a guy with three brand new infants, and a partner on permanent vegetative life support.
    As long as he is married to her, her bills become his responsibility. And who will care for three babies–more financial responsibility. And if he quits his job to be a single father, who will pay for anything? I think he had to legally get rid of their ties to get rid of bills that were way beyond his means. And yes, he had to get on with his life. He had three new lives that need him.

    As for the mother seeing the children. Nobody has a video camera?
    Make films of their life, which won't harm them in any way, and bring them to her.
    Maybe she will understand. Maybe she won't.
    They can talk to her. They can wave to her.
    But right now there is no need to physically introduce a woman confined to a hospital bed to three four-year-olds in real time. This is not a fun place to take pre-schoolers. It is a place where one must be quiet and orderly–something three four-year-olds are not.
    Again, show them pictures of her when she was alive and happy, and hang them in their home. Include one of her in bed now. Explain to them what happened in simple terms, so they always know about her, but don't take them to see her unless they ask when they are much older–at least school aged.

    July 11, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. charls

    What a sad case. What the women wants or does not want cannot be known. Is she alive or dead; no one really knows. Instead everyone projects their own agenda upon her. The medical bills must be horrendous. Since our country does not have a national health care like Canada or Europe, the full burden would fall upon the husband if he stayed married. No one but the husband knows the real reason for the divorce, but protecting his children from impoverishment must have entered into it. The husband fears that his children will be traumatized by seeing their mother in this state. Is this reason enough to prevent them from seeing her? Probably not, but he is the one in this living nightmare. The essence of a tragedy occurs when there is no good solution.

    July 11, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Boscobear

    There is another question that needs to be looked at and that is keeping the patient alive at all costs. These doctors should have known that this lady was past hope and allowed her to die with dignity. Now, because of whatrever reason, this poor woman will be kept alive, millions spent on her treatame and for what benefit?

    July 11, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Nancy G

    There are a lot of variables–physical and emotional– that we don't know, so it's difficult to give a definite answer. For example, how much effort will it be for the father to take the children to see their mother? If it's close by, then even if the initial meeting is emotionally difficult, it can be countered by more frequent visits to follow. If, however, the children would at most get to visit with their mother once every few months, then it would take longer for them to get used to their mother in whatever state she may be in. I know–my husband had a brain injury in 1981, when our children were 3 and 4 years old. I took them to see him because he was in such bad condition that I thought it very likely he would not survive and I felt they needed to have a visual image of where he was because he had been absent from their lives for several weeks and they needed to know why their lives had been so disrupted. With childish clarity, our oldest said afterwards, "We'll have to get a new papa now, won't we, mom?" Children are capable of understanding things, but you will need to prepare them. It sounds, from what I read about this, doubtful that their mother will be able to acknowledge them in any sort of motherly way, but the care and concern they can show for her will be returned to them (and you) in great measure. My oldest son is a consumer rights lawyer and my daughter is an environmental lawyer. I wish you the best of luck; I know the road you tread is a difficult one.

    July 11, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Willow

    The mother is not going to be around forever. The kids should get to visit her. It would be inhumane to do otherwise.

    July 11, 2010 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Karen

    As a health care lawyer myself (and a mother), I can't believe this is even a question–legally or otherwise. This woman has the same parental rights as anyone else, including the right to spend time with her children. (Heck, if anyone's rights should be terminated, perhaps it's the father–he sounds like a very poor role model for his children.) Even if mom were in a completely vegetative state, her children should be able to spend time with her. Since when is the love between a parent and a child conditional, or even something that needs words and fully functioning faculties to be understood?

    July 11, 2010 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lady Geek

    My mother died of cancer when I was five, and I was kept from her at her request near the end. I am only one person, but as an adult I can honestly say that while I would desperately love to know who she was, I really don't think seeing her comatose would changed this desire in anyway. I'd have one more memory of what she looked like, and no greater insight into who she was. It's also significant to note that my mother volunteered to give up such a last meeting, contrary to the common assumption that any mother would always want this, and not consider the the child's perspective.

    I can't speak for this family, but I think it's good to consider that given that the tragic situation the children are in is irreversible it may be well to look forward as well as back.

    July 11, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. john mathew


    The children have the right to know their Mother, and the Mother has the right to see her children and I do not know how Father has the right to deny these. After all, she is the one who has undergone the pain and suffering of a pregnant lady and if she is not able to be close to them, it is an irony because of a heartless and thankless Father. The children are going to be more affectionate and attached to their Mother because of the sacrifice she did and will have to do for the rest of her live. The nearness of the children to a Mother is a biological and evolutionary necessity, which predates our conception and inception of judiciary, politics and society; hence the importance of a Mother to be close to her children transcends all these state laws and rights. Eventually, Mother's love, which is the most powerful of all things and entities in this universe will bring those children to her and no Dad or law can stop the effusion of this Motherly love and sacrifice.

    John Mathew

    July 11, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. moondoggie

    It won't go well for this dad when the kids are 16, 17, 18 and learn the entire truth. It is not like he can hide anything from them in this day and age.

    July 11, 2010 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. mrsgrin

    There is absolutely NO QUESTION that these children should not be denied access to their mother, regardless of her condition -but should clearly be prepared at what to expect. If one cell of this unfortunate woman has cognition, she would want to see her children. Knowing more about this story, I'm disgusted with the "father's" actions – divorcing a woman who essentially gave her life bearing the children he now enjoys – but deprives her of that same parental joy? Not to mention, I have heard he is attempting to get child support from the financial settlement this poor woman's parents obtained to care for her. I guess you can forget "death do us part" and "in sickness and in health" – what an incredible JERK. I have to ask myself if someone that coldhearted and callous should even have custody of the kids himself?

    July 11, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. LM

    I completely agree with Cricket. The mother has every right to see her children. I'm not sure if anyone else mentioned this, but I happened to hear about the story a few months ago. Apparently, the mother received a settlement for the injury she received, which her family has been using to fund her care. The father is asking for child support out of that money. I find it unjust that he feels entitled to child support but will deny the mother the right to see her children.

    July 11, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. jennifer

    of course she and the children should see each other. her heart is beating, she is breathing, she is alive, therefore she is still their mother and they should see her. what a tragic story. as someone who struggled to have kids, to finally have them and never see them would be more painful than never having them to begin with. it breaks my heart. the kids should know how badly they were wanted and loved even before birth. their father is too wrapped in his own world to see what is truly best for the kids who will resent him when they are older and find out what he has kept from them.

    July 11, 2010 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Leave a Reply to Beryl


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.