Probate and Family Court



(Fact - Drawn from Memory)



            In the midst of a busy court session, as case after case is presented, you try, as a judge, always to remember just how important the issues being heard are to the people involved in each particular case.  Every case is unique, every person is unique but on days when you are literally hearing 50 to 100 different matters, exhaustion can sneak in making it difficult to continue giving sufficient time and attention to each individual case.


            On some occasions, the facts involved in a particular case send a jolt through you piercing body, mind, and spirit.  There is no preparation, you don't see it coming, the clerk hands you the next case file – maybe it is number 37 of the day - and you begin to read it just as the individuals involved approach the bench.


            This was in the early 1990s.  As I read through the petition filed by a young girl’s parents, despite my best effort to maintain a dispassionate appearance, my facial expressions almost certainly conveyed shock, disbelief, pain, sorrow and overwhelming sympathy.   The parents were requesting court authority to remove one half of their young daughter’s brain. 


           The young girl suffered seizures all day every day with an interval between the attacks of only a few minutes.  These seizures were all consuming, affecting her whole body.  They were ignited from one side of her brain only.  Having tried every other possible solution, the last resort proposed by her doctors was to sever the connection between the two hemispheres of her brain and remove the hemisphere in which the seizures originated.  The side effects would be significant, but in the end far less burdensome for the child than the non-stop seizures.


            My memory is that one of the surgeons involved was Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I had recognized his name because we had both attended Yale University and I recalled reading about his career.


            My part in this case was small and not difficult.  The family and legal and medical professionals had examined every possible alternative and they all - the parents, their lawyer, their medical advisors, the attorney appointed for the child - agreed that the surgery requested was the best option available.  The petition was allowed and the surgery proceeded.


           These cases make you step back and ask big questions.  Why this little girl?  Why so much suffering?  Yet at the same time, you can only marvel at the commitment and the dedication of her parents and her medical team.  In the midst of such enormous pain and anguish, courage, grace, and love somehow endure.      







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