The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, April 05, 1996, Page 3, Image 3

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    Life-support may continue
OMAHA (AP) — A brain-injured
baby might stay on life-support ma
chines until a court decides whether
her parents injured her, the state De
partment of Social Services said Thurs
Douglas County Juvenile Court
Judge Douglas Johnson set an April 29
hearing on allegations that 3-month
old Tabatha Renshaw’s parents, Ronda
Rcnshaw and Ronald Davis, inflicted
the brain injuries.
DSS attorney Doug Dexter said the
judge sent him a letter informing him
of the date. Dexter said he was not sure
that it meant Johnson would wait until
after April 29 to rule on a request to
end life-support for Tabatha.
“I read that as he wants to leave the
door open,” Dexter said. Attorneys for
the parents did not return a phone
message left at their office. The judge
declined comment.
The Social Services Department
supports a recommendation by St. Jo
seph Hospital to remove the machines
that have kept Tabatha alive since Jan.,
Doctors at the hospital say that the
life support, which consists of a tube
inserted through an incision in her
neck that keeps Tabatha breathing as
well as tubes that feed her and provide
medications, is futile because it will
not correct her brain damage. The doc
tors say the treatment is only prolong
ing her death.
Lawyers for the parents say the
treatment is preserving the baby’s life,
and that the parents alone should de
cide whether she stays on life-support.
The department has temporary cus
tody of the baby because abuse is sus
pected. Tabatha’s parents object to
ending life support.
The Department of Social Services
took the li fe-support question to Judge
Johnson in a hearing that started Mon
day and ended Wednesday.
Doctors said Tabatha might have
been shaken so hard that her brain was
critically injured.
The Douglas County attorney’s of
fice is investigating how the baby was
injured. Neither parent has been
charged with any criminal offense, and
they have said they don’t know how
Tabatha was hurt. Criminal prosecu
tion would involve a process separate
from the juvenile court action.
The April 29 hearing, called an
“adjudication,” will be held to deter
mine whether Tabatha should remain
in Social Services’ care or be returned
to her parents. That would clari fy some
what the question of precisely who has
custody of Tabatha.
Ronda Renshaw and Ronald Davis
still have parental rights regarding
Tabatha. Those rights could be taken
away by the court — but that process
could take years. It is conceivable that
Tabatha would remain on life-support
until the parental rights issue is settled.
The court involvement in the ques
tion over whether life-support should
be maintained is rare, and that is be
cause the parents object, said medical
ethicist Charles Dougherty of
Creighton University. Dougherty, a
member of the St. Joseph Hospital
ethics committee that recommended
life support be ended for Tabatha, said
thousands ofsimilar dccisionsare made
every week across the country.
Dougherty, who testified during the
life-support hearing that St. Joseph
Hospital was following generally ac
cepted bioethical standards, said that
even though the machines are main
taining the functions of Tabatha’s bio
logical systems, they are not restoring
her humanity.
“She has in effect lost any capacity
of being a human individual,” he said
in an interview prior to taking the
Regina Makaitis, a special pros
ecutor representing the Douglas
County attorney’s office, said she found
a single similar case in her research.
In 1979, the Colorado Supreme
Court ruled that life-support could be
ended for a brain-injured child over
the objection of the parents. The par
ents in that case also were suspected of
child abuse.
The major difference between the
Colorado case and Tabatha Renshaw ’ s
case is that the Colorado child was
brain-dead—meaning no brain activ
ity could be detected.
Machines detect some brain activ
ity in Tabatha, but her doctors say it is
involuntary brain-stem activity and that
the higher functioning of her brain will
not be restored.
Parents pay for children’s truancy
County Attorney Ellen Totzke
wants parents to get serious about
getting their children to school.
Nine adults, parents of si x Grand
Island teen-agers, were charged in
Hall County Court with compul
sory education-attendance viola
tions, Class III misdemeanors, for
their children not attending school.
The parents face a maximum
$500 fine and three months in jail if
convicted. But Totzke doesn’t want
to go so far as to jail the parents.
“The parents arc key to getting
the kidsto school,” she said. “Maybe
there’s a little more incentive for
them to pull the kids out of bed and
get them to school. We’re trying to
figure out what will work.”
Prosecuting parents for truancy
is a first in Hall County, she said.
“Before, we have filed juvenile
petitions alleging that the kids
weren’t attending school. Juvenile
court is limited to what they can do
with them,” Totzke said. “We don’t
have control over the parents in
those kinds of cases. It’s time for
the parents to take responsibility
for their children. The old approach
didn’t work, so we’re trying a new
The students arc 13 through 15
years old and attend Barr Junior
High, Walnut Junior High or Grand
Island Senior High, court docu
ments said.
Charged Tuesday were Larry and
Cathy Brcdthauer, parents of Aaron
“7he parents are key to
getting the kids to
school Maybe there's a
little more incentive
for them to pull the
kids out of bed and get
them to school We're
trying to figure out
what will ivork."
Hall County Attorney
Bredthauer; Khamdcng and Lek
Sayakhom, parents of William
Sayakhom; Monte and Tammy
Malone, parents of Amber Malone;
Linda Herbert, parent of Richard
Dvorak; Rose Ventura, parent of
Ulysses Ventura; and Tina May,
parent of Michael Perry.
“I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t
think I’ve violated a law,”
Bredthauer said. “I thought we could
deal with his school situation with
out going to court.”
Bredthauer admits her son,
Aaron, is no saint, and getting him
to school some days is like pulling
“Since he’s hit adolescence, it’s
been difficult,” Bredthauer said.
William Sayakhom, 15, wasn’t
happy when his parents received
t he let ter from the county attorney ’ s
office this week. “I don’t want my
parents to go to court,” he said.
Most days William doesn’t ar
rive at Walnut Junior High until 10
or 11 a.m. His dad doesn’t wake
him up, he said, and an alarm clock
doesn’t do the trick either.
The teen already has to take one
semester over because of lost time.
His school warned him about being
late so many times, and William
said he has let his parents down.
“I’m kind of disappointed,” he
The parents are violating the state
Compulsory Education Attendance
Law. Charges apply to parents of
children ages 7 through 16 who
have unexcused absences and are
habitually truant from school. Once
students turn 16, they can’t be re
quired to attend school, Totzke said.
“If kids miss school, we have a
legal obligation to get them in
school,” Superintendent Lane
Plugge said. He said students are
truant if they have unexcused ab
sences for three consecutive days.
Hall County Judges Philip Mar
tin and David Bush handle such
Martin said truancy is “a prob
lem for the child and the parents.
Maybe it’s time to focus on the
parents’ part of the responsibility.
The resources and the options we
have in juvenile court are limited.”
Continued from Page 1
And the Army field headquarters in
Tuzla, Bosnia, assembled an emer
gency team to help search for bodies
amid high winds and sheets of rain.
“We have found the last victim,”
Croatian Interior Minister Ivan Jamjak
told the state HINA news agency to
day, confirming that none of the 33
aboard survived the crash of the U.S.
Air Force plane.
The State Department was waiting
to release the names of the victims
pending notification of their families.
Clinton, visiting the Commerce
Department’s Washington headquar
ters on Wednesday to deliver the tragic
news, praised Brown.
“He was one of the best advisers
and ablest people I ever knew. And he
was very, very good at everything he
everdid,” Clinton told about 700 Com
merce employees, several huddled to
gether in stunned sorrow.
With first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Vice President A1 Gore and
most of the Cabinet on hand, Clinton
led Brown’s subordinates in §ilent
Clinton and his wife joined a pa
rade of friends and dignitaries who
trekked to Brown’s home to comfort
his wife, Alma. Longtime political al
lies of the fomier Democratic Party
chief — Sen. Edward Kennedy and
others—were among the visitors.
Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros
described the mood in the Brown
“They’re proud, and they have a lot
of reason to be proud of Ron’s accom
plishments. They are strong people,
and they’reholdingup,” Cisneros said.
Corrections i|
A story in Tuesday’s Daily Ne
braskan about Playboy’s “Women
of the Big 12” issue reported that
Charlyne Berens, an assistant news
editorial professor, was a panelist
in a recent discussion about pomog
e panel, comprised of campus
and community leaders, was orga
nized by the UNL Theater Depart
ment in conjunction with the pro
duction of “Miss Autobody.”
Berens was the only panelist from
the field of journalism.
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