CHICAGO (CBS) — Several parents are suing some of the biggest hospitals and medical professionals in Illinois after they were subjected to Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigations into allegations of potential medical neglect after refusing to get Vitamin K shots for their babies.
They want a compensation and a court-enforced guarantee that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services won’t be called if parents refuse to give their babies a Vitamin K shot, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics since the 1960s to prevent a rare bleeding disorder.
Angela and Brian Bougher won’t ever forget what they missed after baby Glori was born. While they have tons of pictures of their other babies at the hospital when they were born, they have only one picture of Glori at the hospital.
“I don’t have a picture of me with her. It was just really traumatic,” Angela said.
Just minutes after the birth of their daughter Glori Silver Cross Hospital nurses took the newborn away.
The Boughers said Glori was healthy but gone for at least 12 hours.
In the hospital room instead was a caseworker form the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
“It wasn’t a happy time for us because it was full of fear and the unknown,” Angela said.
“That’s what was stolen from me.”
FIRST ON 2: #NewMom from #Joliet describes moment she expected #newborn to be in arms but instead nurse took baby away & called #DCFS because #mom refused #VitaminK shot. She’s part of class action lawsuit just filed. More at 630 on @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/Et50rqdHLW
— LAUREN VICTORY (@LaurenVictory) September 24, 2019
The Boughers had made the decision to refuse their newborn the eye ointment called erythromycin as well as the Vitamin K shot that can prevent rare but potentially life-threatening bleeding in the brain or intestines.
Vitamin K shots have been widely used at birth since the 1960s. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls Vitamin K an “indicator of future parental health care decision-making behavior.”
The Boughers’ four other children, who also didn’t receive the shot, were born in Wisconsin.
Glori’s birth in Illinois was at a time that DCFS considered it potential medical neglect to deny babies a Vitamin K shot or erythromycin eye ointment.
Brian and Angela said two weeks after Glori was born, police showed up at their house, unannounced. Angela said the officers told her DCFS had called them, and they needed to see all her children, so she was afraid they were going to take her children away.
“I see these three cars, what else are you going to think? Why would three police cars be at my house except that they’re here to take my kids?” she said.
Courtney Hill and James Holderman also opted out when their daughter, Abigail, was born at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale. They made the same decisions with no issues when they had their son at the same hospital three years earlier.
“They have these forms ready. They know that people actually decline them. Why is DCFS being called?” Courtney said.
Both sets of parents were investigated for weeks, but DCFS ultimately determined both cases of alleged medical neglect to be unfounded.
Soon after, a DCFS memo surfaced rescinding its policy requiring doctors and other medical professionals to file a report whenever parents refused Vitamin K shots as possible cases of medical neglect.
“We are simply trying to make sure that we are not overstepping the boundaries,” it stated. “This procedure inappropriately identifies what can and should be considered medically necessary.”
“Later on they backtrack, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, we shouldn’t have done that.’ Like, time out, that’s it? Yeah, we’re relieved for us and for others, but at the same time the outrage and the violation, it’s not gone,” Brian said. “There was no apology.”
The policy change happened in August 2018, but one mother who gave birth at the University of Chicago Medical Center months later took video of a doctor telling her the hospital needed to take protective custody of her child.
“We give her the Vitamin K shot and give her right back to you,” the doctor said.
The woman said she called police and showed the doctor the DCFS memo rescinding the Vitamin K policy. She was still investigated.
“It was the final straw,” James Holderman said.
Attorney Richard Dvorak filed a 103-page lawsuit on behalf of several parents against Silver Cross Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, the American Academy of Pediatrics, several pediatricians, and some top officials at DCFS.
The case takes issue with the old DCFS policy on Vitamin K.
Courtney Hill and James Holderman were under investigation for two months, even though they signed an informed consent waiver when they elected not to give baby Abigail a Vitamin K shot.
“My wife was traumatized. You know, we’re scared, and I thought this is maybe a fluke. But now I see this is a widespread practice, and it’s impacting many, many parents,” James said.
It’s unclear how many parents were investigated under the old policy, but Dvorak said the lawsuit he filed is far-reaching. And there’s a chance more parents will want to join the lawsuit now that the case is going public.
“To interfere with a family’s decision to make medical choices on behalf of their children, you have to do it on a case-by-case basis,” Dvorak said. “You cannot come up with these blanket policies that apply to everyone. That is blatantly unconstitutional. It also flies in the face of Illinois law.”
Silver Cross Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center declined to comment on the lawsuit.
AMITA Health issued the following statement:
“The top priority for all AMITA Health care providers is the health and safety of every patient we are privileged to serve. Neither AMITA Health nor AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale are named as a defendant or accused of wrongdoing in this class action lawsuit. We take seriously our commitment to our patients and follow federal, state and regulatory requirements in all the care we provide.”
DCFS said it conducts investigations if a medical professional calls in with a case that’s believed to be life-threatening. A spokesperson acknowledged the existence of the previous Vitamin K policy that required doctors and other medical professionals to report refusals but said it’s no longer in effect.