By John Jalsevac

DOVER, Delaware, July 7, 2008 ( – The Delaware House of Representatives has passed a resolution supporting Randy Richardson in his bid to protect the life of his 24-year-old daughter, Lauren Richardson,

Richardson, who at one time was the valedictorian of her high school class, suffered a brain injury after a heroine overdose in 2006, which left her severely handicapped. Doctors diagnosed Richardson, whose plight is being compared widely to that of Terri Schiavo, as being in a Permanent Vegetative State (PVS).

At the time of the accident Lauren was three months pregnant. After the birth of Lauren’s child, her mother, Edith Towers, who is divorced from Lauren’s father, and who gained legal guardianship over the girl, tried to have her daughter’s feeding tube removed, thereby causing her death by dehydration.

Randy Richardson, however, has organized a desperate fight to protect his daughter from such a fate, bringing Lauren’s story to the media, and initiating legal action to ensure that doctors do not remove Lauren’s feeding tube. He claims that his daughter, while severely handicapped, is both responsive and not terminally ill. He has said that with therapy Lauren could be re-taught to eat, and would have no need of the feeding tube.

The Delaware House of Representatives responded to the case on June 30 by passing a resolution in support of Richardson.

The Resolution observes, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that persons who are suffering from severe brain injuries often have cognitive functions significantly beyond what medical science previously estimated.”

The resolution then goes on to criticize the idea of “Permanent Vegetative State,” a medical diagnosis that is frequently used to justify the decision to starve and dehydrate a patient to death. Most famously, Terri Schiavo was diagnosed as PVS, a diagnosis that Schiavo’s family vehemently contested.
  It “is also becoming increasingly apparent that the diagnosis of ‘persistent vegetative state’ or ‘PVS’ is a category that recent science shows is far more uncertain and overly broad than had been previously thought,” said the House resolution, “including a high rate of misdiagnoses of PVS patients who have not been able to exhibit responses, but whose consciousness can now sometimes be measured with medical advances such as neuroimaging and drug treatment.”

Hence, concluded the resolution, “Be it resolved… that it is against the public policy of this State and this State’s interest in life, health and safety, for hydration and nutrition that is not harming a patient to be involuntarily removed from a non-terminal, apparently brain-incapacitated patient if doing so will cause the individual’s death.”

“Furthermore,” continues the strongly worded resolution, “such withholding of hydration and nutrition without:  1) clear written direction from a legally competent patient or, 2) a valid written advance health-care directive that was previously executed by a patient who is now incapacitated and that either allows such withholding under such circumstances or grants an agent authority to make that decision by an incapacitated patient is also against the public policy of the State of Delaware.”

The synopsis of the resolution specifically mentions Richardson, saying, “The impetus for this Resolution comes from the case of Lauren Richardson, a 24-year-old Delaware woman who, after suffering brain injuries and impaired consciousness, now faces the possible removal of her nutrition and hydration, despite the absence of her clearly specified and legal consent to any such a course of action.”