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May 24, 2008 permalink
Ask for a second opinion, lose your baby. Here is an example from Indiana.
Special Report - A Parent's Rights
Posted: May 19, 2008 11:39 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The birth of a baby should be one of the most exciting moments a couple will ever experience. But an aggressive campaign by the state to screen newborn infants turned that moment into a nightmare for one couple.
Little Kate Ellis is healthy and normal but her birth was traumatic for her parents. It started just minutes after Kate was born.
Kate's father, Mike Ellis, said a doctor walked in and told Kate's mother that he was going to have to administer methadone.
Ellis said he was shocked and worried about giving such a powerful drug to his daughter.
"And I knew methadone...I've heard in the past that is for people that have a heroin habit. That threw up red flags immediately. I said, 'We're not doing that,' immediately," said Ellis.
Ellis was in a panic. His baby had just been born at Methodist Towers. He wanted to talk with a pediatrician.
His wife, Shannon Ellis, was in a panic too. But her medical history is what triggered the methadone suggestion.
Shannon said her doctor had prescribed hydrocodone for her after she suffered injures in a February car accident. She and Mike trusted that the prescribed drug would not affect the baby.
"Why would you prescribe this to her if this was going to be an issue?...He didn't have an answer for any time I asked that. I said, 'I'm very upset'," said Mike.
"If I had to do it all over again I would have dealt with the pain," said Shannon.
It turns out that anytime a mother is on a drug, prescription or not, a doctor can order a newborn to be screened. If a parent questions or protests, which Mike Ellis did, the red flags go up and the state takes action.
Back at the hospital a urine drug screen result on Kate was negative. But it was already too late. Child Protective Services was in the process of taking custody of her away from Mike and Shannon.
All the Ellises had to do to raise suspicion and get the state involved was simply ask for their own doctor's second opinion on whether it was necessary to give their baby the powerful drug, methadone.
Judge Marilyn Moores did not rule directly in the case, but heads up the Marion County Juvenile Court.
"Because of the huge number of children we are seeing who are born exposed or addicted to drugs and what a devastating thing that can be for children and how hard it is to find them after the fact, the system reacts pretty quickly," said Moore.
For the Ellises the system was too quick and, as they saw it, unfair.
"If this is something they do with everybody in the state of Indiana, okay. But that's not the case. I mean they cornered her immediately for something they prescribed for her and treated her like she's a drug addict," said Mike.
Infant drug screenings are not mandatory for all babies born in Indiana. And not all Indianapolis hospitals do the tests.
So the state removed Kate from her parents and placed her in foster care. Remember, the urine test for hydrocodone in the baby's system was negative.
The Ellises had to go to court to get their baby back, which meant more of a burden.
"We're going to sell her vehicle to be able to get an attorney to be able to fight to get our daughter back," said Mike.
Three days later, the Ellises were in juvenile court and the news was good. The judge ordered the release of the child back to them.
"I think the mistake is made that they were not advised of the potential need for treatment...and the reasons for it," said Jim Lowery, the Ellises' attorney.
Judge Moores said when parents go against medical advice, that's a red flag in the system.
Kate Ellis was reunited with her mom and dad about an hour after the hearing.
"I think Child Protective Services has way too much power. And I think the hospital, I feel the same way. It's supposed to be a joyous event when you have a baby and this turned into, in essence, into a nightmare," said Mike.
Mike Ellis thinks the system has too much power.
Judge Moores sees the issue from a different perspective.
"Well I guess my response to that is, that infant...that newborn baby has no power, has no one to speak for him or her.
A Merconium screen, a different kind of test that takes several days to complete, did show little Kate Ellis had been exposed to the drug her mother had taken.
Judge Moores said her court sees hundreds of infants exposed to drugs at birth. She said the only way to get them treatment is aggressive testing. If that means parents lose custody for a few days, it's better that than having a dead baby.
Report by Debby Knox, WISH. Edited by Andrew Bonner.