The LA Times has a remarkable account of a woman, Abbie Dorn, who - during birth of her triplets - suffered medical errors that left her without the ability to move or to communicate, except by blinking. What's amazing and, to me, horrible, is that the kids' dad successfully kept the three children away from their mom for over three years. According to the Times:
Abbie has held her babies just once: the day they were born. She and her husband, Dan, have since divorced, and they are locked in an angry legal struggle over the children they once dreamed of and prayed for. Abbie is fighting for visitation through her parents, Susan and Paul Cohen, who have been named her conservators. Dan has argued in court that seeing their disabled mother would cause the children grave harm and that he, as their only "fit" parent, has the ultimate right to make decisions about their care.
Here we have a case where powerful competing interests converge badly. First, there is a parent's strong interest in making decisions free from state involvement. Clearly, the only parent with such decision-making capacity is the dad. Second, there is the parent's strong interest in having a relationship - of whatever kind - with her child. Abbie Dorn may not be able to advocate for that interest, but that fact doesn't undermine its existence. Third, there is the childrens' strong interest in having a relationship - of whatever sort - with their mom. (In my view, that interest is no weaker for the fact that mom has very limited capacities.) And finally, there is society's strong interest in according full respect and humanity to people with disabilities.
How this plays out in family law, I'm not sure. But I believe that the dad is making a terrrible decision for the girls. And my instinct is that society, in the form of the court system, is (through delay and inaction) making a terrible decision bynot vindicating the interests of the children, the mom, and society. It's a painful case, and one that shows how a parent-rights model has at least the potential to produce bad results all around.