British Doctors Leave Preemie to Die

Filed under: In The News

Baby Jayden had the misfortune of being born two days too early.

Even though he was born at 21 weeks and 5 days into his mother's pregnancy, the preemie had a strong heartbeat and was moving his arms and legs upon delivery. But according to his mother in an interview with the Daily Mail, Jayden's doctors refused to offer him medical attention or access to intensive care because little Jayden was just two days shy of the 22-week cutoff date for treating premature babies established in the British national healthcare guidelines.

Unbelievably, the desperate pleas of Jayden's mother, Sarah Capewell, to help her still-breathing child were ignored. Capewell claims that she told the NHS doctor, "If he's born alive you have to help him." According to the story, Capewell said the doctor, following guidelines for British state hospitals for treating premature babies, responded, "No, we don't."

In England babies born prior to 22 weeks are not even legally recognized as babies and therefore are not issued birth certificates; Capewell had to fight to get both a birth and death certificate for her "fetus."

According to the Daily Mail, Capewell's midwife told her, "They won't come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him." Indeed. Baby Jayden survived another two hours before he died in his mother's arms.

When Sarah Capewell entered James Paget Hospital in Norfolk, England she was not expecting to deliver a healthy -- or even live -- baby. She had gone into early labor, but was denied injections to try to stop the labor because she was not yet at 22 weeks of gestation. She was also denied steroid injections to help strengthen her baby's lungs for the same reason.

"When I went into labor I was told he would be born dead, disabled and his skin would most likely be peeling off," she recounts on her Web site, Justice for Jayden. Her doctor's advice was for her to treat the birth as a miscarriage, since her child was likely to be stillborn.

But that's not what happened. According Capewell, "he put out his arms and legs and pushed himself over" upon delivery and despite his doctor's grim prediction, his mother writes that "in actual fact [Jayden] was perfect." According to the Daily Mail, the midwife present at delivery described Jayden as a "little fighter."

Amellia Sonja Taylor was also a "little fighter." The 21-week-old Florida preemie who only weighed 10 ounces at birth defied odds and just celebrated her second birthday despite her doctors' pessimistic prognosis for survival.

So did Heather Pope. Though she was 23 weeks old, she was only 1.5 pounds and was given a mere 10 percent chance of survival. Heather's mother told the BBC that, "The doctors initially told us they would not do anything, but we insisted they at least try, and thankfully they came round." Heather is now a healthy and happy grade-schooler.

Sadly, Jayden Capewell was never given the chance to prove his doctors wrong. He was treated as a number, not a patient. And now the mother is asking why and waging a campaign to change England's national guidelines.

But Capewell is discovering that her noble crusade is tied up in her nation's ugly abortion politics. In England, there is genuine concern that lowering the viability age of a fetus would trigger another national debate over abortion limits as it did in 1990 when scientific evidence of fetus viability outside of the womb was the reason politicians lowered abortion limits from 28 to 24 weeks.

The good news for pro-lifers, like myself, is that if viability remains a benchmark for public acceptance of abortion, science is on our side. If only the battle to change Britain's guidelines didn't come at the expense of Jayden's life.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.