LOS ANGELES — A judge has heard a week of testimony and will now decide whether a woman so badly brain damaged by medical errors that she can no longer walk, talk or eat still has the right to parental visits with her children.
Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller said he plans to issue a tentative written order sometime Friday deciding whether Abbie Dorn can visit regularly with her 4-year-old triplets.
Dorn's parents, who care for her at their Myrtle Beach, S.C., home, want the children to visit for two weeks every summer and a week in the fall and spring.
An attorney for Dorn's ex-husband, Dan Dorn, argued Thursday that the 34-year-old woman was so badly injured giving birth to her children that she is no longer capable of being a parent.
"It's unfortunate but it's the truth, and we have to deal with what we know," said attorney Vicki Greene.
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 attorney Lisa Helfend 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, believing she would never recover, divorced her and 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.