byMafianTompson Executive Director, Alternative Birth Crisis Coalition

I don't remember the man's name, but I do remember his anger, "Doctors are just a bunch of robots," he stormed. "They have two buttons, a 'live' button and a 'kill' button. You pay your money, push the button of your choice and they will carry out your wishes."

He was plainly outraged that physicians——the healers——would be such willing participants in the wholesale slaughter of innocents with which we are ushering in the New Age.

When Dellann and Don found they were expecting their first child, there was no doubt they wanted their baby to live. Lawrence was born on April 5, 1982, a healthy, full—term, six and—a—half pound boy. The birth itself was a disappointment. Lawrence was in a breech position, and their obstetrician had assured his parents that the baby could be delivered vaginally. But after five minutes of fetal monitoring during which the baby's heart rate dipped to 60 for a few seconds before recov- ering immediately, the doctor insisted on an immediate Caesarean section. (Curiously, the medical records, as opposed to the fetal monitor tracings, reported that the heart rate went down to 40 and remained there. This erroneous report was used by all later practitioners in the case.) It was only the beginning of a situation that soon went from bad to worse.

To begin with, against his parents' wishes, Lawrence was denied the benefits of breast milk during the first l2 hours after birth. On the first day, the baby was brought to Dellann for only a few minutes before she had recovered from the general anesthesia. (Dellann was to remain in the hospital for a week suffering from a high fever and infec- tion from the surgery.) That night, Lawrence was given glucose water and formula, again without his parents' knowledge or consent and against previous agreements. During the night, a nurse claimed she had observed the baby having a seizure. On that basis alone, Lawrence was given pheno- barbitol, against his parents' wishes and without their knowledge.

The next day, the hospital staff decided Lawrence had become an "emergency," and every kind of testing was ordered. But his parents, unconvinced, refused to give their consent. So, on the following day, the hospital transferred the baby to a university medical center for further testing under threat of a court order against Dellann and Don. After the first tests were shown to be negative, the tests were repeated. During the remainder of the next six weeks, which Lawrence spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, he received more than 300 blood gas tests (followed by transfusions to replace the blood taken for the tests),

100 x-ray tests, a multitude of other tests and a combination of more than 20 drugs. Although Dellann pumped her breasts faithfully and brought the milk to the hospital to be fed to Lawrence, the milk was used only on a token basis.

Lawrence never left the neonatal intensive care unit. He died there on May 22 of liver failure. The autopsy showed no structural defects in his liver. It revealed no other diagnosis other than reactions to medi- cations. Having examined the medical records, Dellann and Don are con- vinced that the overly agressive treatments of the intensive care nursery, coupled with its failure to use the breast milk they brought and its indiscriminate use of unproven technology and medications, caused the death of their son. The bill for the baby's stay in the intensive care unit was $110,000. An additional $10,000 was billed by the hospital at which Lawrence was born. Since the family was covered by a group major medical insurance policy which will pay up to $250,000 per person, they strongly suspect that much of what took place was done to take advantage of insurance benefits. The deep emotional scars of their baby's death have led them to research neonatal intensive care treatment and to alert other parents to its abuses.

So I think the angry man I quoted initially was only partially correct. Dellann and Don could choose life. But given the reality of the treatment that was forced on their child, they actually didn't have a choice after all.