The Shark Tank, a conservative blog devoted to Florida politics, brought attention Monday to an attempted euthanasia case in Massachusetts while presidential candidate Mitt Romney was governor. The blog post appeared the same day the Romney campaign announced an outreach effort to social conservatives.
In 2006, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (MDSS) petitioned the courts to take 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre off of life support. Haleigh was in a coma after being beaten by her legal guardians.
MDSS was given legal custody over Haleigh and fought to be granted permission to remove her from life support. Its effort reached the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The order was granted, but Haleigh recovered shortly after the court order and before life support was removed. She remains alive today.
After Haleigh's recovery, Romney announced an independent commission to review the case and make recommendations.
“That was an error in judgment, apparently,” Romney said at a press conference in 2006 in announcing the formation of the review panel. “An individual is a child of God, and this is something that we care very deeply about and that's why we’re going to focus on this particular case.”
Romney implemented the panel's recommendations for reforming MDSS procedures in similar cases, including obtaining a second recommendation from a physician not working at the institution where a child under MDSS care is being treated, and more detailed medical information from physicians.
Critics of Romney's actions during the incident claim that he was too quiet and too slow to respond in the case.
“At the time the case was unfolding, then Governor Romney kept his views about the case close to his vest,” Javier Manjarres wrote for The Shark Tank.
But Ryan Williams, press secretary for Romney's campaign, defended the former Massachusetts governor in a statement sent to The Christian Post, “Gov. Romney criticized the state's handling of the case, ordered an investigation and put in place safeguards to prevent it from happening again. His actions speak for themselves.”
“Gov. Romney was the one who ordered an immediate investigation of Haleigh's case. He appointed a panel to review the entire case history. Once the panel completed their investigation, Gov. Romney ordered implementation of all of their recommended changes for future cases.”
The Haleigh Poutre case came shortly after the nationally publicized Terri Schiavo case in Florida. In that case, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush all intervened to try to prevent the removal of Shiavo's feeding tube. Social conservatives in Florida were heavily involved in bringing attention to the Schiavo case.
In a Monday press release, the Romney campaign announced the formation of the Social Conservatives Statewide Steering Committee in Florida. The 22-member committee will be chaired by former Congressman Dave Weldon. Weldon, a physician, has a reputation as a strong defender of pro-life causes while in Congress.
“I am honored by the support of these important Florida leaders,” Romney said. “Like them, I believe that America is great because of the faith of our Founders and the strength of our families, and we must do everything that we can to preserve both.”