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A Year After Hospital Ordeal, Baby Aiden's Grandmother Will Assume Custody
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 25, 2005

MANSFIELD, OHIO--Permanent custody of 16-month-old Aiden Stein will switch to the boy's paternal grandmother under an agreement reached Thursday between his 22-year-old parents and state officials.

Dawn Mansfield, the mother of Aiden's father, Matthew, has said that she plans to follow the wishes of the child's parents to have the boy remain on a ventilator to stay alive. Mr. Stein and Aiden's mother, April Heimlich, agreed to give up their parental rights as part of the deal reached in Richland County Juvenile Court.

Aiden was admitted to Akron Children's Hospital on March 15, 2004 with injuries that doctors said were consistent with shaken-baby syndrome. They have maintained that the boy is blind, deaf, and in a persistent vegetative state. They claim that Aiden cannot recover from his injuries and that it would be in his best interest to remove the ventilator that keeps him alive.

The doctors petitioned the court to appoint a temporary guardian, arguing that Aiden's parents have a conflict of interest because at least one of them could face criminal charges if the baby dies. Police suspect that Mr. Stein caused his son's injuries and that he was the only person present at the time. They have not ruled out his mother as a suspect in causing earlier traumas that doctors claim they have detected. Charges have not yet been filed against either parent.

Aiden's parents argue that the child is alert, that he responds to them, opens his eyes, holds up his own head, follows sounds, and even sits up. They believe he will recover further if given more time. They also assert that Aiden's injuries occurred during his birth.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in December that a lower court had no authority to appoint the temporary guardian to decide to end the child's life when the parents' rights had not yet been permanently terminated.

The court-appointed guardian, Ellen Kaforey, had supported the doctors' position. According to the Associated Press, Kaforey said earlier this week that she no longer believes she has any authority to make a decision after the state Supreme Court's ruling. Kaforey has said she supported placing Aiden in the custody of Mrs. Mansfield.

Summit County Probate Judge Bill Spicer ordered Kaforey to submit a report on Aiden's condition, his medical costs, and "whether this guardianship should remain open."

Edward Markovich, the attorney who represented Aiden's parents before the Ohio Supreme Court, told the Akron Beacon Journal about the custody decision, "It basically ends the litigation over the life of Aiden Stein so he becomes more of an ordinary person again instead of the eye of the storm."

The process of transferring Aiden's custody to his grandmother is expected to take 90 days. During the transition, he could be placed in a permanent care facility or specialized foster home, WFMD-TV reported.

Cases like Aiden's highlight a growing debate over whether parents or doctors should decide the course of action when a child experiences a significant brain injury.

Related:
"Aiden Stein timeline" (Akron Beacon Journal)
"Aiden Stein: Hospital Wants Baby's Life Support Removed" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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