The LePage administration has reversed its position on a “do not resuscitate” legal case involving an infant who suffered severe injuries after allegedly being shaken by her father, changing course to take the side of the mother, who wants the order lifted.

Gov. Paul LePage says he opposes the original recommendation of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to impose the order against the mother’s wishes.

The case – which was headed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court this month and made national news last week – is likely to be dismissed because LePage and a top health official recently made statements supporting the mother, according to a legal expert.

The administration said top DHHS officials were not fully informed about the case by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, a claim that was disputed by a spokesman for the office.

The case revolves around the parental rights of Virginia Trask, 18, of Augusta, the mother of 1-year-old Aleah Peaslee, who is paralyzed because of her injuries and is being cared for by foster parents. Trask agreed to a do-not-resuscitate order in late December, but changed her mind after the infant unexpectedly was able to breathe on her own after being taken off life support at Maine Medical Center.

Because of the severity of the child’s injuries and the belief that she was in pain, the DHHS continued to pursue the do-not-resuscitate order, and on April 24, an Augusta District Court judge agreed with the DHHS. Trask appealed, saying the order amounted to a wrongful termination of her parental rights, and the case appeared to be on its way to the state’s highest court.


However, LePage and DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew now say they agree with Trask, putting the legal case in jeopardy.

“It would seem to me that this case would go away,” Jim Burke, a University of Maine clinical law professor, told the Portland Press Herald on Monday. If LePage does not change his position that the state should not impose the order against the mother’s wishes, the case could be dismissed because the parties would now be on the same side of the legal argument, Burke said.

LePage and Mayhew unequivocally support Trask in statements originally sent to and confirmed to the Press Herald by administration officials Monday.

“This case is disturbing and is not reflective of my administration’s position that a parent who is the legal guardian of their child should have final say in medical decisions about life-sustaining treatment,” LePage’s statement said. “The existing law violates the sanctity of parental rights, and I cannot support it. Unless a parent is deemed unfit and parental rights are severed, the state should not override a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their own child.”

Mayhew echoed LePage’s sentiments, saying that DHHS would not enforce a do not resuscitate order even if the state Supreme Court upholds the Augusta District Court decision in the agency’s favor.

“If the higher court upholds the previous decision that a parent’s rights can be overridden by the department, this administration will not exercise that misplaced authority,” Mayhew said.


Scott Hess, Trask’s attorney, declined to comment Monday when reached by the Press Herald.

The administration also wrote that top officials at DHHS were not fully consulted.

“Executive management at DHHS did not have the opportunity to confer with the Attorney General’s Office on the filing of the original case that sought authority to issue a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order,” according to a statement from DHHS. LePage is calling for a “full review” of how such decisions are made, the agency said.

The statement does not specify when LePage or Mayhew became aware of the lower court ruling giving DHHS the right to override the mother’s wishes.

Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, which is representing DHHS in the case, declined to comment on the DHHS statement Monday except to say that the agency was involved during all legal steps.

“The attorneys of the Child Protection Division worked closely for many months with numerous members of DHHS to address the interests of the child in this matter consistent with the law. We look forward to working with (DHHS) to ensure the interests of the child continue to be fully represented,” Feeley wrote in a statement.


The child’s father, Kevin M. Peaslee, 22, is charged with aggravated assault and has pleaded not guilty. Trask was not present during the incident at the family’s Capitol Street apartment, according to court documents. Peaslee is not involved in decisions regarding the do not resuscitate order.

The baby “suffered devastating neurological injuries” and “as a result of those injuries she is unable to suck or swallow. She will never be able to walk, talk, see or hear” and is a “spastic quadriplegic,” according to court documents. She “exhibits a high-pitched ‘neurological cry’ 80-85 percent of the time” and appears to be uncomfortable or in pain during most of her time awake, the documents say.

Giving the baby additional pain medication could prompt a situation in which she would need to be put back on life support, raising the do not resuscitate issue.

The mother’s legal filing notes that Trask is opposed to using extensive pain medication “that would both ease her pain and result in a cascading series of events that would inevitably lead to her death.”

“I don’t necessarily want her to be put on a breathing tube and all that stuff again, but I don’t think that they should give up and just pump in the medication and watch my child die,” Trask is quoted as saying in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court legal brief.

Since the child was placed in foster care in January, the mother has visitation rights but has not visited often, according to the Attorney General’s Office filing.

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