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"Brain Dead" Girl Begins Recovery, Hours After State Removes Feeding Tube
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 6, 2006

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--On September 11 of last year, Haleigh Poutre was brought into the emergency room with multiple bruises, broken teeth, and swollen knees -- all allegedly from abuse at the hands of her mother, Holli Strickland, and stepfather, Jason Strickland.

Doctors also said the 11-year-old girl's brain stem was severed and that she was "virtually brain dead" -- in a persistent vegetative state -- with no chance of recovery.

Two days later, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services took temporary custody of Haleigh.

And, according to a court document made public Monday, DSS asked a court for permission to remove the girl's feeding tube and ventilator on September 19 -- just six days after gaining custody of her.

Mr. Strickland, who could face murder charges if Haleigh were to die, fought the move and tried to gain custody of her. The court refused Strickland's request, however, and in mid-January granted the state's request to have the feeding tube and ventilator withdrawn.

Instead of dying, Haleigh started showing signs of improvement -- the day after her feeding tube and ventilator were pulled.

Haleigh first started breathing on her own. Then she started following people with her eyes as they moved around her room.

Last week, Commissioner of Social Services Harry Spence visited Haleigh for about 30 minutes and watched as she responded to simple commands, such as picking up a Curious George stuffed toy and selecting a yellow duck among three objects placed in front of her.

Based on what he saw, Spence ordered Haleigh to be moved to rehabilitation facility where she could receive therapies.

Now DSS is being investigated for seeking the court order to have Haleigh's ventilator and feeding tube withdrawn so soon after her injuries. The agency is also facing a review for failing to act on 16 previous reports of alleged abuse or neglect, and instead taking the word of her parents who blamed Haleigh for injuring herself, the Boston Herald reported.

Haleigh's adoptive mother, Holli Strickland, died in late September, along with her own grandmother, in an apparent murder-suicide. Haleigh's biological mother, Allison Avrett, who is also Holli's sister, has been visiting the girl in the hospital.

A DSS spokesperson said the department sought the court order early so it could keep its options open.

"Poutre To Rehab After DSS Says 'Great Reason For Hope'" (North Country Gazette)
"Battered but not beaten - Victim fights back to breathe and move again" (Earth Times)
"Opinion: Wrong diagnosis makes case for life" (The Sun News)
"Haleigh’s sad story: 11 years of torture" (Boston Herald)
"Our View: The tragedy of Haleigh Poutre" (Patriot Ledger)
"Child rehab center offers hope for Haleigh" (Boston Herald)
"DSS moved quickly to end girl’s life" (Boston Herald)

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