Paralyzed Woman Gets Temporary Visitation Rights

March 25, 2011

The Associated Press

A judge issued a tentative written order Friday allowing a woman so badly brain damaged by medical errors during childbirth that she can no longer walk, talk or eat, temporary visitation with her 4-year-old triplets.

Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller issued the ruling after a two-week court hearing over the parental rights of Abbie Dorn, a 34-year-old who is being cared for by her parents at their Myrtle Beach, S.C., home. The order will stand until a trial date is set in the case, said Dorn's attorney, Lisa Helfend Meyer.

Dorn's parents, who are suing for permanent visitation, want the children to visit for two weeks every summer and a week in the fall and spring, but an attorney for Dorn's ex-husband argued during a hearing earlier this week that their mother was so badly injured giving birth that she is no longer capable of being a parent.

A call to Vicki Greene, the attorney for Abbie Dorn's ex-husband, was not immediately returned on Friday.

During the hearing's closing arguments on Thursday, the attorney for Dorn's family said that although Dorn may be incapable of taking part in a traditional mother-child relationship, that doesn't mean she should be shut out from holding her children, watching them grow and bonding with them.

"They can call her mommy and, most of all, they can tell her they love her," said Meyer.

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, Dan Dorn, divorced her because he believed she would never recover. He is raising their children at his Los Angeles home.

Thursday's closing arguments revealed a deep division between Dorn's mother, Susan Cohen, and Dorn's ex-husband.

"She is an unfit grandmother," Greene said at one point, adding that Cohen wants to take on the role of parent whenever the children visit their mother and to fill them with unrealistic expectations that their mother might recover.

Meyer complained that during a December visit, when the children asked to take home a photo of their mother, Cohen gave them each framed pictures that they clutched tightly. But when they got home, she said, their father hid the photos away in a cabinet.

"He didn't want them to know they had a mother," she said.

As the attorneys spoke, Dorn's mother listened by phone from her home while Dorn's ex-husband sat quietly in court. Outside court he smiled but politely declined to discuss the case.

Dorn was represented by a large photo of herself that was placed near the judge's bench. It showed her with her long dark hair pulled back, gazing pensively at the camera.

A large photo of her children, wearing sunglasses and seated behind a basketball almost as big as them, was placed next to it. But the judge ordered it removed to protect their privacy when news photographers arrived. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.