Friday, November 21, 2008

Lauren Richardson is going home next month

An article from the Associated Press - November 20, 2008 recounts the case of Lauren Richardson, the 24 year old woman who was in the center of a dispute between her parents over her guardianship and the removal of her fluids and food to cause her death by dehydration.

The judge issued an order last week granting Richardson and Towers joint guardianship and closing the case.

Randy Richardson told AP that his daughter, who is currently at a nursing home near New Castle, will be transferred to his home in Elkton, Md., next month.

Richardson said "When we told her she was coming home, ... she started crying and sobbing,"

The article explained that Earlier this year, Richardson challenged a Chancery Court judge's decision awarding Lauren's mother, Edith Towers, sole guardianship and authority to remove Lauren's feeding tube.

Towers commented that she hoped she never would have had to make the agonizing decision to remove the feeding tube, but she simply wanted her daughter to receive hospice care and be allowed to die a natural death.

Towers said "I said in court I don't want to have to pull Lauren's feeding tube,"

Towers had been assured by doctors that her daughter would never recover.

The article explained that Lauren Richardson was a high school honors student who wanted to become an English teacher. She had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young teenager. Later, she began using heroin to escape violent mood swings. Lauren has been disabled since suffering a heroin overdose, while pregnant in 2006.

Lauren gave birth to her daughter in February 2007 while being maintained by a ventilator. After the birth, doctors discovered that Lauren could breathe on her own. Since then she has only required fluids and food to be provided through a tube.

Lauren is cognitively disabled but not dying of any medical condition. If Lauren's tube had been removed she would have died from euthanasia by dehydration, the same way that Terri Schiavo died.

Towers explained that she and Richardson, who divorced when their daughter was an infant, got conflicting medical evidence from doctors, who at one point declared Lauren to be brain dead.

Towers said that she sought sole guardianship upon the advice of a doctor after Lauren, who had been under hospice care at the nursing home after giving birth, was taken back to the hospital for further treatment.

Towers explained that she began having doubts about the lawsuit as more information became available in court documents and in postings from family members on a Web site that the Richardson set up. The turning point came this summer, when she and Richardson's wife began talking about Lauren's young daughter, and how she would respond to the questions that her grand daughter was bound to ask about how the family had cared for her mother.

Towers said "I pictured my little granddaughter asking me those questions, and I said 'That's it, we will try everything before we give up,'"

The article explained that Towers decided in August to drop the lawsuit and joined her ex-husband and other family members in visiting Lauren in September.

Towers said "Lauren, it's mom and dad and we've just come out of a meeting and you're going home ... Would you like that?" She then spent a few minutes alone with Lauren, who started sobbing.

Towers said "We want to see what we can do for her; if there's anything we can do for her. I can't wait to see how she reacts when she gets home."

Randy Richardson said his daughter is not comatose but is in a state of minimal consciousness. She responds to stimuli and can express emotions, is aware of her surroundings, has full movement of her limbs, and tries to sit up.

Richardson said "She's come a long way in the last 30 days ... We have hope,"

Link to the Associated Press article:

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