Rights for Disabled Parents?

Sharon - posted on 04/22/2010 ( 7 moms have responded )





The captions to some of the pictures in the article are probably included in my C&P below. If you are going to the article - look at her eyes in each picture. To me, she is looking AT the people she is interacting with.

(CNN) -- Abbie Dorn always wanted children, and in June 2006 she got her wish -- triplets. But during a difficult birth she suffered severe brain damage that took away her chance to raise them.

Now, her parents and former husband are locked in a legal battle over whether Dorn is capable of interacting with her children, and whether they should visit her.

On Tuesday, a judge in Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled that Abbie Dorn's parents have the right to fight for visitation rights on her behalf.

The ruling clears the way for a trial, scheduled for May 13. No matter who prevails, the case is likely to lead to years of appeals that could result in a legal landmark affecting the rights of mentally incapacitated parents.

Dorn, 34, last had contact with triplets Esti, Reuvi and Yossi in October 2007, when they were toddlers. They will turn 4 on June 20.

Paul and Susan Cohen, a physician and former nurse, are conservators of Abbie Dorn's estate and care for their daughter full-time at their home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A $7.8 million medical malpractice settlement funds her treatment.

Her former husband, Daniel Dorn, is raising the triplets in Los Angeles, California.

Susan Cohen says her daughter has made considerable progress after intensive rehabilitation and now communicates by blinking her eyes.

"One slow blink means 'yes.' No response means 'no,'" said Cohen.

Abbie Dorn was athletic, happily married and full of life before her brain injury, her parents say.Daniel Dorn maintains that his former wife remains in a vegetative state. She is more than physically disabled, he contends in court papers, she is "neurologically incapacitated" and legally incompetent to make decisions involving her children.

Abbie and Dan Dorn, both devout Orthodox Jews, were in their early 20s when they met in Atlanta, Georgia, and embarked on a whirlwind romance. They married in August 2002 after dating for six months. Dan Dorn took a job with his father in Los Angeles, and his wife moved to Southern California with him.

Three years later, in the fall of 2005, Abbie became pregnant.

"They were very much in love," recalled her mother. But what happened to Abbie when her triplets were born would tear the young family apart.

According to her parents and their lawyers, during the delivery Abbie began bleeding severely and went into cardiac arrest, which deprived her brain of oxygen. Medical personnel were not able to resuscitate her for nearly 20 minutes, according to the Cohens and their lawyers.

After Abbie Dorn was revived, her condition initially seemed to improve. Her organs were functioning. Her blood was clotting. But over the next three days, she took a turn for the worse

With his wife's parents overseeing her medical care, Dan Dorn found himself a young father raising triplets. He believed Abbie's prospects of recovery were faint. One year to the day after the triplets were born, Dan notified the Cohens that he was ready to move on.

In this photo, with her parents and niece, Esti, Abbie Dorn seems aware of what is happening around her."I still love Abbie very much, but I am trying to move on and have been and will continue to parent our children, who are happy and are thriving," Dan Dorn told CNN in an e-mail.

At Dan's request, the Cohens initiated divorce proceedings on Abbie's behalf. The divorce was finalized in the fall of 2008.

Dorn and the Cohens continue to disagree over whether or not Abbie is making progress in her treatment. They also cannot agree on whether she has the ability to interact with her children.

Dan Dorn maintains in his legal papers that it is not in his children's best interest to see their mother now.

"The neurosurgeons told me in 2007 that she would not recover. I have asked for an updated neurological report," he told CNN by e-mail.

The judge granted that request at Tuesday's hearing.

CNN has obtained the 2007 medical report in which neurologist Richard Helvie described Abbie Dorn's condition as "permanent." Observing a list of mental functions, Helvie noted that she was "so impaired as to be incapable of being assessed" for most of the evaluation.

Abbie Dorn's parents and therapists tell a different story about her recovery.

"Abbie has made dramatic progress since 2008," said her mental health counselor, Dr. Robert McCarthy.

McCarthy is part of a $33,000-a-month rehabilitation program designed by Susan Cohen. He is treating Abbie using a method called neurofeedback, which trains the brain to function more efficiently.

"With the introduction of neurofeedback, she has become increasingly alert, can voluntarily bounce her legs up and down, has regained movement in her arms, and can even verbally respond 'yes' or 'no,'" McCarthy said.

Court battles like the one between Dorn and the Cohens are rare but not without precedent.

Abbie Dorn is kissed by her mother, Susan Cohen, and nephew and niece, Mani and Esti.In 1979, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of a quadriplegic father, William T. Carney, stating that physically disabled parents cannot be deprived of their children because of their disability.

But there are key differences between these cases: Carney's case dealt with custody of a physically disabled parent, while the Dorns' involves visitation by a mentally incapacitated parent.

Dan Dorn contends in court documents that the legal drama is more about what the Cohens want rather than what Abbie might have wanted for her children.

"Abbie and I were happily married and very much in love. She would want the best for me and our children," he told CNN in an e-mail.

Paul Cohen visits the triplets every three months. The Cohens have asked Dorn to send videos of the children and allow the family to see each other via webcam but so far, they say, that hasn't happened.

"There's no reason for the triplets not to have a relationship with their mother, whatever that relationship may be," said Lisa Helfend Meyer, the Cohens' attorney.

Dorn's attorney, Vicki J. Greene, responded that he "wants to be the one to parent the children and tell them at an appropriate age the proper details of their life. From our perspective, he gets to make the decisions. He's the father."

Dorn, who is seeking child support from Abbie's estate, stated in court documents that he has not told the children what happened to their mother because they are too young to understand. He says he will consider taking the children to see Abbie when they are older -- if he receives medical evidence that she will be able to communicate with them.

The Cohens argue that if the children are properly prepared for the situation, the experience will not be detrimental. They have requested that the children see a psychologist to help prepare them.

For now, the Cohens will continue to hold on to hope for their daughter.

"I can't let her lose her children," Susan Cohen said.

This conversation has been closed to further comments


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Rosie - posted on 04/25/2010




i really do feel this guy is a turd, who would keep their child away from their own mother when she hasn't done anything wrong? but i do feel he is entitled to some of the lawsuit money to help raise his kids. what happened to her took his childrens mother away from them, they should be entitled to some money for that.

Amie - posted on 04/25/2010




Mary has said everything I wanted too.

I know a man whose ex-wife is mentally & physically handicapped. She had undergone a tubal but the doctor nicked her bowel. It wasn't caught in time to fix it. She has permanent brain damage, partial arm and leg amputation. Both of her sons still get to see her, he doesn't touch the money won in the lawsuit for "child support". It takes care of all of her expenses and will continue to for the rest of her life. She's a resident of a nursing home now and will continue to be until she passes away. However his home is accessible for her so he can take her out for visits with her boys. They did eventually get a divorce but he is nothing like this man. The boys know their mom is different but they don't care, it's all they've ever really known her as and love her just the same.

If it's anyone's fault that the kids are shocked or horrified by their mother, it's this mans. He's a douche.

[deleted account]

I don't see how the children seeing their mom would be soo gawd awful??? Regardless of her mental/physical state she should be able to see her kids! If a parent was put in a coma because of a horrific accident the other parent wouldn't think twice about taking the kids to see the other parent...just because they communicate through blinks doesn't mean that she shouldn't be able to see them! OMG!!! What a douche! I agree w/sharon he must be feeling some overwhelming guilt for having divorced his disabled wife that HE can't face it HE can't deal with it... I think HE would need counseling more then those kids would! I'd take my almost 4 yr old to see his dad if he was in that state! Hell I'd take him to see a grandparent or any other family member/friend in that state! He abandoned her! He's the one w/the problem!

Mary - posted on 04/23/2010




I cannot believe what a cold, heartless asshole this guy is. We are not talking about joint custody here...just infrequent visitation. How could ANY man, who claims to have loved his wife NOT want his children to see the woman who birthed them? If he had any love or respect for her, he would want to honor her sacrifice by making damned sure those kids knew who she was.

Obviously, he is one self-centered SOB, as evidenced by the fact that he wants to take money from an account meant to provide for her physical care. I'm sure that raising multiples on your own is overwhelming, and expensive, but to try and rob your incapacitated ex's care funds is just despicable.

Sharon - posted on 04/22/2010




I agree. I think this is all his problem. Obviously her neice & nephew have no issue with interacting with her or associating with her.

Their mother gave up her body in so many different ways to bring them into this world. Without her, they wouldn't have life and if she kept her brain and lost the use of her body - there is no way she would have given them up.

If there is a spark or a kernal of her left inside her ruined brain, she wants her kids on some level, any part or portion.

I personally think her husband can't face her as she is now and I think he imagines that if he can erase her from his life, he can pretend she never was and move a new mother in much more easily. If he has to KEEP her in his life, this would make a new wife/mother more difficult.

Regardless he's an immature asshole.

Carolee - posted on 04/22/2010




I think the kids have a right to know the woman who almost gave her life to have them. I also think she deserves to see the kids that she almost died for. The dad sounds like a jerk to me. Visitations are okay (they can be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) even if one of the parents is mentally or physically disabled and otherwise unable to care for the kids... as long as the visitations are supervised by one or more adults who are willing to help (which it sounds like her parents are). That's sad.

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