LOS ANGELES — Even though Abbie Dorn was paralyzed giving birth to triplets, her parents say that doesn't mean she should be denied the right to hold her children and watch as they grow up — even though she can't eat, speak or move.
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The parents have gone to court in an effort to persuade a judge that their daughter not only wants motherhood, but has a constitutional right to it as well. Her condition doesn't mean she loves her children any less than any other mother would love hers, they say.
But allowing three preschoolers to spend lengthy periods of time with a woman who can only lay motionless will traumatize them, argues their father, Dan Dorn. He has been raising the two boys and a girl as a single parent since the day he brought them home from the hospital nearly five years ago. He wants things to remain that way.
After hearing closing arguments from both sides Thursday, Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller is expected to decide whether Dan Dorn must agree to grant his ex-wife regular visitation rights.
Ultimately, Shaller's ruling will likely only resolve the matter temporarily. A parental rights lawsuit brought by Abbie Dorn's parents, Paul and Susan Cohen of South Carolina, is expected to take place later.
The tragic events that led all parties to Shaller's courtroom this week began on what should have been the happiest day of Abbie Dorn's life. That was June 20, 2006, when she left for the hospital to give birth to her sons Reuvi and Yossi and their sister Esti.
The first two births took place without incident, but as a doctor was delivering Yossi he accidentally nicked Dorn's uterus. Before doctors could stop the bleeding, her heart had stopped, a defibrillator they used malfunctioned and her brain was deprived of oxygen.
A year later her husband, believing she would never recover, divorced her and is raising their children at his Los Angeles home. Her parents, meanwhile, took her to their Myrtle Beach, S.C., home where they are caring for her. As the conservators of her estate, they also manage her malpractice settlement of nearly $8 million.
They want her ex-husband to bring the children there for regular visits.
Until a four-day visit last December, Dan Dorn had not done so. His ex-wife's parents say that was the first chance she had to hold her children since the day they were born.
Both sides agreed in court last week that the visit went well and the children would like to see their mother again.
But their father wants to limit their interaction to avoid traumatizing them. He noted that his ex-wife can't speak and he believes she isn't aware of her surroundings.
Abbie Dorn's mother disagrees. She says her daughter expresses her emotions when she smiles or cries and that she communicates with others by blinking her eyes. One long blink means yes. No response to a question means no.
When a Los Angeles Times reporter visited her last year and asked if she wanted to see her children, Dorn responded with a long, firm blink.
The Times reported that neurologist Dr. Angela Hays, who examined Abbie Dorn, testified that she can perceive sounds and images. "She does perform an eye blink maneuver to attempt to signal yes or no answers," Hays said, although "it was difficult for me to get her to do that reliably."
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