Friday, December 28, 2007

What to Do About Javona Peters?

Javona Peters is a 16 year old girl who, due to a surgical complication, is now in a "persistent vegetative state." Her parents are duking it out about whether to "pull the plug." The following link explains the case as well as includes commentary from Wesley J. Smith.

Note that at the end, Smith refers to Haleigh Poutre, an eleven year old who awoke from a "persistent vegetative state" just as "pulling the plug" was about to occur. If you are unfamiliar with Haleigh Poutre, see Poutre's story, aside from the coma issue, is an extremely grim reminder of the connection between domestic violence and disability.

Finally, I would also like to note for those who may be wondering: "persistent vegetative state" is a sloppy term that doesn't really explain whether someone is about to die, because no one really knows. Instead, I'd see it as a form of disability, for example under the ADA definition which defines disability as something that limits major life functions (obviously). The question that has people going is whether life in a "persistent vegetative state" is a life worth living, and who is the best judge of that. The person with this condition may be on a feeding or breathing tube, but again those alone are not an indicator of proximity to death or suffering. I'd also agree with Smith that the use of "vegetative" or "vegetable" is a cultural putdown used on lots of folks that does nothing but generate negative feelings.

The question for FRIDAwatchers is: Is Javona's story a feminist disability rights issue? Without a great deal of information being given out in the press as yet, we can see that this story involves a mom and a dad making a separate decision about their daughter's life. Their relationship complicates the matter, especially with media involved as one gets painted the good parent. I think the single motherhood angle is of concern as so many children with disabilities have single moms, who are under a lot of pressure. Obviously, Javona is a girl...and for some reason it seems like the girls in a coma get a lot of press. Why is that? We should really be examining why the media goes for the damsel in distress thing, in general. Why do editors seem to feel readers need these stories? It must sell...

Questions, questions...what should be done? And what should we do?