Mother says doctors refused to treat infant because of U.K. health rules
London, England, Sep 10, 2009 / 01:40 am (CNA).- Doctors in England ignored a mother’s pleas for help and left her extremely premature baby to die because he was born two days before a hospital guidelines’ recommended cutoff age for providing medical treatment.
In October 2008 Sarah Capewell, 23, gave birth to her son just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy, almost four months early.
She told the Daily Mail that doctors ignored her pleas to save Jayden, her newborn son. They said they were following national guidelines which say babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment.
Capewell said doctors refused even to see her son, who lived for almost two hours without any medical support. She reported that he was breathing unaided, had a strong heartbeat and was moving his arms and legs. However, medics refused to admit him to a special care unit.
They said they would have tried to save Jayden if he had been born two days later, at 22 weeks into pregnancy.
“When he was born, he put out his arms and legs and pushed himself over,” Capewell reported. A midwife said he was breathing and had a strong heartbeat and described him as a “little fighter.”
“I kept asking for the doctors but the midwife said, ‘They won’t come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him’,” Capewell told the Daily Mail.
She cuddled her son and took photos of him. He died in her arms less than two hours after his birth.
Capewell also reported that during her premature labor with Jayden she was told that she was not allowed injections to try to stop the labor or a steroid injection to help strengthen her baby’s lungs because she had not reached 22 weeks into pregnancy.
Doctors told Capewell, who has had five miscarriages, to treat the labor as a miscarriage, not a birth. They advised that she expect her baby to be born with serious deformities or stillborn.
After Jayden’s death she had to argue with hospital officials for her right to receive birth and death certificates to allow her son a proper funeral.
The medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks.
The guidelines were drawn up by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and are not compulsory. They advise doctors that medical intervention for very premature children is not in the best interests of the baby and is not “standard practice.”
A trust spokesman from James Paget Hospital in Norfolk said the hospital follows national guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine regarding premature births.
Capewell has since discovered that a prematurely born child has survived after being born 21 weeks and six days into her mother’s pregnancy. Amillia Taylor was born in Florida in 2006 and was treated because doctors mistakenly believed she was a week older.
Amillia celebrated her second birthday last October. She is the youngest premature baby to survive.
“Thousands of women have experienced this,” Capewell said. “The doctors say the babies won’t survive but how do they know if they are not giving them a chance?”