Child Protective Services Called For Refusing Routine Newborn Medical Procedures

7 Comments 29 April 2012

On April 11th, Child Protective Services was called when parents declined routine newborn medical procedures.

Dr. Daniel Cooper had the opportunity to help deliver his son.

Cooper Family

He and his wife Simone had wanted a home birth, but after concerns about the baby could be in distress, decided instead to birth where Dr. Cooper had recently served a two year position as chief of staff, at Mercy Hospital in Folsom.

Although son Ivan was born in good health and doing fine, disputes began immediately, even as to the time of birth.

The family didn’t want eye ointment, brought their own liquid vitamin K and declined to have blood drawn. There were disagreements, but no one was yelling. It wasn’t a heated situation. Simone, who gave birth naturally after a previous cesarean, even refused ibprofren for after birth pains.

President of Mercy Hospital, Don Hudson, said “parents have the right to refuse treatment for themselves or their children. However, health care providers may be obligated to notify the appropriate authorities if refusing treatment places a child’s health in potential danger.”

Then why, after Daniel drove their healthy newborn home was CPS called?

“I am stunned that they could think he was in danger,” said Cooper.

The response has been one of outrage. “How dare they!” and “That’s why you should have your baby at home!”

I did my share of eye rolling too. Home birth does provide exceptional newborn care.

While I agree this wouldn’t have happened had they stayed at home to give birth, when medical attention might be needed, the hospital is the safest place to give birth.

What could have been done differently?

I have an idea: a birth plan.

What if they had written a birth plan and brought it to the hospital, handing one out for everyone on duty that day?

Would they have run into the same situation? If everyone knew their wishes ahead of time, rather than as a game time decision?

It’s a technique we use with our toddler. If she has a dentist appointment or an upcoming party, we tell her about it days beforehand, giving her plenty of time to process the information.

These choices are theirs to make, and no one should pester them, or god forbid go so far as calling Child Protective Services, especially when the newborn is healthy!

I am in no way insinuating that what happened was acceptable.

But I can’t help but wonder, if the couple had proactively communicated their wishes on these routine newborn care procedures - the way any doula, natural childbirth instructor or birth advocate would advise – would they have run into such friction?

Stephanie Dawn, Sacred Birth Mentor, had a more empowering hospital birth than her previous home birth! Why? She says it was because of her birth plan. Everyone in that room knew her wishes and what to expect. No surprises or arguments.

What are your thoughts? Has anyone experienced difference in treatment during hospital births when they had a birth plan vs. no birth plan? I’d love to hear from you on this subject!

Your Comments

7 Comments so far

  1. shareen says:

    Even with a birth plan, the doctors and nurses are not willing or understanding. Anything besides the norm is evil and uneducated.

  2. Jessica says:

    This couple clearly *had* a birth plan. Do you really believe that having it in print would have made so much difference? The staff questioned the vbac decision after she gave birth and the /method of delivery of vitamin K/ (not even IF the bit. K would be administered.) I believe that they would have turned up their noses at a “birth plan.”

  3. Kathi says:

    It’s so hard to know in this case if a birth plan would have made a difference or not. I’d say, certainly, in a planned hospital birth they are essential. But this was a planned homebirth transfer, which, unfortunately, are often met with hostility by hospital staff. If I had to place a bet, I’d guess that that was really the underlying fuel for this fire – the staff’s displeasure over that choice. Who knows though. It may be a good plan to have one in your back pocket just in case.

  4. Desiree says:

    I love your blog, it has changed my life, but I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. My first birth was in a hospital. I followed all the advice- had a concise, one page birth plan, gone over, “approved” and signed by my OB well in advance. The hospital received a copy with my registration forms in advance, and every staff person involved received a copy when I was there to give birth.

    The nurses laughed and said birth plans were “dumb.” Everyone did whatever they wanted, followed their routine, despite my wishes. Horrible things were done to me, my baby, and our family of three for no reason other than routine.

    My situation is not unique. Unfortunately, in most cases it is much safer for everyone in your family to give birth at home. Even in risky homebirth situations, you have to weigh in the abuse and assault you, your baby and your family will most likely receive at the hospital. I would give birth alone in field in the middle of nowhere if I had to, to avoid the hospital experience. Unfortunately, like most others, I had to learn this the hard way. I am so happy for the babies and mothers who were fortunate enough to have figured out homebirth’s awesomeness before their first was born.

  5. Hi Kaitlin. I am truly sorry to hear of the Cooper’s story and any story where simple desires and wishes of new parents are deemed criminal. It is disturbing and I hope a greater inquiry will be made into this scenario and all scenarios like this.

    Yes, a birth plan can be helpful to create an empowered hospital experience, and it definitely helped me understand what I could and could not say no to, but there is much more to it than that. Hospitals are businesses. Different hospitals have different policies and procedures that make their business work. It is important, in addition to writing a birth plan (no matter where you birth, as I feel it is an empowering exercise either way) to determine EXACTLY what are the policies and procedures of the hospital you are birthing at or may be transferred to. When we know the lay of the land there are not as many surprises. Full disclosure and clarity is what we are after. It is also crucial to realize that the best laid plans can go awry. Birth is unpredictable. Birth also brings out unconscious beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. That is why I am so interested in working through those unconscious beliefs, attitudes and behaviors long before the first labor pang. This inquiry is at the heart of my Sacred Birth Work. I am grateful for your blog as it is clear that we all need to be talking about how it is that we can create an empowered, sacred birth, no matter where we birth.

    Keep writing Kaitlin! The world needs you!!

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