Parents' Court Battle Over Ending Daughter's Life Support

A 16-year-old coma victim's parents will meet in court to determine her fate.

ByABC News
December 26, 2007, 6:42 PM

Dec. 27, 2007 — -- In years past, Javona Peters spent Christmas at home with her family, surrounded by gifts and the sounds of caroling. But this year, the 16-year-old who dreamed of becoming a nurse spent the holiday in a coma, surrounded, instead, by hospital staff and medical equipment.

Peters has remained in a vegetative state since she came out of what doctors describe as routine brain surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City on Oct. 17. Her lungs work on their own but she has a tube that facilitates breathing. She receives food through a tube and is unable to hear, see, speak, move, talk, eat or think.

Now, her parents, unmarried and estranged, are battling over the future of their daughter and whether she should remain on life support.

"When you see your kid go into the hospital, and then find out she can't talk or move, it is not a good feeling," Leonard Peters, who wants his daughter to remain on life support, told

Javona's mother, Janet Joseph, is in court to get full custody of her daughter in order to sue the hospital for malpractice and potentially determine her daughter's fate.

"It is not up to me to decide who lives and who dies," Peters said. "I don't give life and I don't take it away."

Javona lived with her mother in Rhode Island and saw her father about once a month at his home in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Her mother has filed papers in Bronx Supreme Court to be named her daughter's guardian. The hearing, is slated for Jan. 7.

Both Javona's parents signed consent forms before the routine procedure, called a ventriculostomy. The operation, in which doctors drill into the skull to relieve fluid on the brain, generally takes 90 minutes.

The girl was operated on by James Goodrich, director of pediatric surgery at Montefiore, and famous for leading the surgical team that separated conjoined Filipino twins in 2003.

Two days after the operation, Javona had not awakened, a result, the hospital would eventually say in a statement, of an "unforeseeable reaction to a routine anesthesia agent." The family says it was a full three weeks later when the family finally learned the whole story of what happened.