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December 13, 2008 permalink
Baby Cassidy passed away in McMaster Children's Hospital while under temporary wardship of Family and Children's Services of Niagara.
Friends slam agency's treatment of teen mom, baby
Paul Morse, The Hamilton Spectator
(Dec 13, 2008)
Niagara's children's aid agency is being called "inhumane" for its role in the death of a gravely injured infant who took 14 days to die after she was removed from life support.
Friends of the teenage mother accuse Family and Children's Services Niagara (FACS) of causing the three-month-old girl to suffer for two weeks after doctors determined she was brain dead and her feeding tube was removed by court order.
The infant, who died Tuesday night in Hamilton's McMaster Children's Hospital, can be identified only as Baby Cassidy.
FACS executive director Chris Steven said the children's aid agency secured a court order granting it temporary wardship of Cassidy and later received a court order involving a "sensitive" medical decision.
Steven would not directly discuss the case any further because of strict confidentiality laws.
Friends of the baby's 17-year-old Niagara Falls mother say the teenager also had to endure the ordeal virtually alone because of strict visitation restrictions imposed by the child protection agency and the hospital.
Baby Cassidy was rushed to a Niagara hospital on Nov. 12 with a suspicious life-threatening brain injury and transferred immediately to McMaster. Police, who suspect the baby may have been violently shaken, have launched a major investigation.
"FACS may have their own reason for the way they've done things, but it seems very inhumane to me," said Joan Cristelli, 42, of Niagara Falls.
Baby Cassidy "looked like something you see in a horror story, like a skeleton. Her soft spot was completely caved in an inch and a half. Her eye sockets, you could see the shape of them," Cristelli claims.
"And having the mother there by herself and not letting others in and having her watch this with no support ... that, in and of itself, is pretty inhumane."
Cristelli befriended the pregnant teenager, who was already pregnant when she started dating her son earlier this year.
"I thought, 'Who am I to judge this girl?' She needed support."
Cristelli began giving the teenager baby supplies, helped her prepare for birth and was at her side during labour in hospital. The girl moved back in with her mother after Baby Cassidy was born, but moved out again shortly afterward.
Police say a family member brought Cassidy to Greater Niagara General Hospital Nov. 12 with a grave brain injury. The infant was rushed to McMaster's pediatric care unit in critical condition the same day.
Baby Cassidy was kept on a feeding tube for several weeks while doctors ran a series of brain scans and tests on her, Cristelli said. Then, she said, doctors and FACS informed them the infant had no hope of cognitive life and on Nov. 25, the feeding tube was removed. They also restricted access, allowing only blood relatives to be in the room with Cassidy.
While the teen's mother and grandmother came as often as they could, it still meant the girl was alone with a dying Cassidy for much of the time, she said.
"The baby did not die of brain damage, she died of starvation," Cristelli alleged. "I did not think we had this in our country."
Children's aid agencies do have the ability make critical medical decisions, said Dominic Verticchio, of the Children's Aid Society of Hamilton.
Based on expert medical assessment, the agencies can decide to withdraw life support in two ways:
If the child is a full ward of the Crown, CAS can automatically make that decision because it is the child's legal guardian, says Verticchio. But if CAS takes the child into temporary wardship, it must seek a withdrawal order from the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice.
"At some point you have to weigh the benefits and harms," said Karen Faith, director of the Clinical Ethics Centre at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre.
If the health care team decides aggressive life support ought to continue, they will talk about benefits and harms from an ethics perspective, she said. Then, the "burden of medical interventions" is justifiable if there is a likely benefit.
But Faith said many ethicists argue that prolonging the dying process through intervention where death is imminent prolongs the suffering that goes along with dying.
"Many would argue that constitutes a harm with no likely benefit."
Source: Hamilton Spectator
Addendum: A woman identifying herself on Facebook as Jessica Pelissero says she is the mother of baby Cassidy. As of August 2011 FACS is going after her son because of the baby Cassidy tragedy. Help can be offered through the Facebook link before her name.
From another source, here is the mother's account of the death of her baby.
Jessica Pelissero September 11th, 2011 11:03 pm :
I have been dealing with Family and Children’s Services for the past 7 months. This is, unfortunately, the second time I have had the “pleasure” of dealing with them.
My first time dealing with FACS was terrible. The absolute worst thing I have ever gone through in my entire life. I was a young mother, and they took advantage of that, and lied and manipulated me and my family, and eventually destroyed the most important thing in my life. My daughter.
November 11th, 2008 I had left my two month old daughter with a family member for the night. He offered to watch her to give me a “break” so I could get some rest and relax a little bit. If only I had known what was going to happen, I would have straight up refused.
November 12th, 2008 I woke up early, even though I was supposed to be taking the day to relax and get some sleep, and went onto MSN. I spoke to my family member, who informed me that “something was wrong with my daughter, and I needed to come pick her up.” I thought he was overreacted, but I got ready, called a cab, and headed over to see what the problem was.
When I arrived, my daughter was unconscious, and her breathing was very shallow. I knew IMMEDIATELY something was seriously wrong, and she needed to be at the hospital. The person I left her with did not call an ambulance, and instead waited for me to come pick her up. This person has children of their own, they should have been more responsible and done something to help her.
If I had not woken up early that day, I’m not sure if he ever would have called an ambulance, or even me. He was irresponsible, and didn’t even try to help her. If I had brought her home with me the night before, she would probably still be alive.
So, once I saw the condition she was in, I rushed her to the hospital. Immediately a “Code Pink” was called, and she was rushed away from me. I sat in a waiting room for almost 2 hours before any doctor came to talk to me. When they did, I was informed that my daughter had suffered head trauma, and was bleeding in her brain.
She would need to be rushed to McMaster Children’s Hospital. I was allowed to see her one time before she was transferred. My heart broke, and I saw my life fall to pieces.
After she was transferred, I was forced to be interviewed by a worker from Family and Children’s Services. I told her exactly, everything that I knew. I told her I had just picked her up a couple of hours ago, and rushed her here. I told her how the caregiver hadn’t done anything to attempt to help her, and how he says nothing happened.
After that, I was allowed to leave, and head up to Hamilton, to monitor the condition of my daughter. When we arrived in Hamilton, we were not allowed to see her. I was heartbroken. I was required to do an interview with a “Child Abuse Unit” of the hospital, go through another evaluation with FACS and speak with a doctor in charge, before I was allowed in her room.
She had a police guard at her door, and was only allowed one visitor at a time. How they could expect anyone to go through this alone… To see their child, in such rough shape, and have no shoulder to cry on, no support, I don’t understand it.
My daughter was put into a medically induced coma. She had a feeding tube through her nose, a catheter, and a ventilator feeding air directly to her lungs. She was swollen everywhere, and her eyes were taped closed. I could barely recognize her. How could this happen to my daughter?
After many interviews with Family and Children’s Services, they decided that they would only allow blood relatives into my daughters room, and still only one at a time.
This was especially unfair because the man who had acted as father to my daughter since before she was born, was not allowed in the room, but my daughters biological father and his family was allowed to see her. Her father and I had split up because he expected me to put her up for adoption, and I refused. Why would they allow him and his family to see her, and not the family that adopted her as part of theirs?
The doctors performed brain scans and blood work on my daughter for a week and a half, and then FACS brought me to court, and forced me to give up my rights to my daughter. She became a Temporary Crown Ward, and they then got a court order to remove her from life support.
November 25th, 2008 they took my daughter off the ventilator. We had our entire family, and everyone who wanted to say goodbye, as well as a Priest present. We had her baptised, and a memory box was prepared. We thought she was going to die that day.
They removed her tube, as I held her in my arms. Holding my breath, I was braced for the worst. Against all expectations, she started to breathe on her own! It was a miracle! She was going to live!
She began to make progress. Moving around, making noises, even reacting to loud noises that we made around her, and our touch. She loved having her feet tickled, and when we did, her mouth would smile just a little bit. We had so much hope. The doctors told us she was going to make it.
Three days later, Family and Children’s Services obtained a court order to remove her feeding tube. They had lied and said she was making no progress, had no brain activity, and no chance at life. They removed her feeding tube later that day, and that’s when all the hell really began.
She was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit, and into a normal ward of the hospital. The only medication that she was given, was morphine. Everytime she made a noise, they assumed she was in pain, and gave her a shot to keep her from making noise. I believe that they were overdosing her.
I was not allowed to bottle feed my daughter, give her water or even bathe her. I was accused of interfering with her death, and threatened to be banned from her room if I even attempted to feed her. The logic was that bathing would hydrate my daughter, and feeding would nourish her, which would offset the “dying process”.
For fifteen days, I watched, alone and horrified, as my daughter was starved to death. Not being able to do anything. Either I could feed her, and never see her again, or I could spend every last second of her life with her, and cherish every minute of it, no matter how hard it was.
As we were in Hamilton, and my family is from Niagara, it was not very often that our blood relatives were able to come see us. They came as often as they could, but seeing my daughter in that condition was hard on them.
She was purple from head to toe, withered down to a skeleton. Her soft spot was completely sunken in, and her eyes as well. After fifteen days of being starved by Family and Children’s Services, on December 9, 2008, my daughter lost her battle, and finally went to God. May she rest in peace.
I hope one day, to get justice for my daughter. To this day, FACS still claims she died as a result of a brain injury…
Source: Cambridge Advocate