When does life end and death begin? This difficult question will have to be answered soon by the parents of a 23-year-old girl who has been put on a breathing machine for almost two years. Her mother wants the machine unplugged. Her father hopes for a miracle.
Lauren Marie Richardson was a problematic daughter. Never on time at school, she would come back home at late hours, usually without a word of explanation for her worried parents. Friends she hung around with were far from desirable and hardly ever bothered to introduce themselves to the Richardsons. Problems arose in the family and Lauren’s parents divorced after a few years, forcing Lauren to shuttle between two homes. Soon she started doing drugs. Soft narcotics came first, but within time, her organism had grown immune to cannabis, demanding stronger and stronger substances to satisfy the narcotic hunger. Finally Lauren began injecting heroine into her veins.
On August 28, 2006, Lauren Richardson overdosed. She was found unconscious, with her heart barely beating and brain severely deprived of oxygen. She has neither opened her eyes nor uttered a word ever since. At the hospital it turned out that Lauren was pregnant and although it wasn’t an easy decision, her parents knew they had to keep her alive at least long enough until her baby was born. Doctors did not give much hope for Lauren’s recovery but promised to do everything in their might to sustain her basic functions for nine months.
Ember Grace was born in February 2007. Words cannot describe the joy Edith Towers and Randy Richardson felt over the birth of their first grandchild who reminded them so much of Lauren. The few moments they spent with her were probably the last when they were truly happy. Edith had always claimed that her daughter never wanted to be kept alive and now demanded the doctors unplug the machinery. Randy still had hope. “The issue in Lauren’s case is the eternal truth that all people, no matter what their medical condition, bear the image of God and deserve basic care and an opportunity to be restored to health,” he said.
In January 2008, the court named Edith Towers guardian of her daughter. The News Journal which reported on the trial quoted Towers as saying that Lauren had asked her not to keep her alive. Lauren was to tell her mother: “Don’t ever leave me hooked up to life support. I would not want that. I think it is horrible. I think that I do not ever want to be kept on life support if the doctors say there’s no hope.” The words were backed up by Edith’s brother. But Randy Richardson, with whom Lauren had lived shortly before she overdosed, claimed that his daughter would have never said it.
He decided to question his former wife’s ability to make reasonable decisions. Supported by numerous pro-life organizations, Randy Richardson has appealed the court’s ruling and is hoping that he will be able to keep Lauren breathing until she dies naturally or a miracle happens. One of the groups that have sided with Richardson is the American Life League, the same that fought the euthanasia of Terri Schiavo in 2005. Time presses again because Edith’s attorneys have been bombarding the court to grant their client permission to unplug the life-sustaining machines.
Randy Richardson admits that the Lauren lying in a hospital bed is not the Lauren he remembers. But it is still his little girl and he has promised himself and God to fight for her life for as long as possible. “If I don’t, who will? I love my daughter.”