Monday, August 15, 2011

'I had to watch my baby die'

Sarah Capewell gave birth to her son in hospital. He was moving about, breathing unaided and had a strong heartbeat, his mother says.

But doctors wouldn't come and treat him because he was too premature. "They won't come and help, sweetie," the midwife told her. "Make the best of the time you have with him."

Miss Capewell watched her baby die less than two hours later. Staff at the hospital told her if her son had been born two days later, they would have tried to help him. She is now campaigning for a review of the medical guidelines.

Sarah Fisher was pregnant with twins. One of the twins, Emie, died when she was born at 21 weeks. Doctors told Miss Fisher she had an infection and the other twin would not survive. They recommended an abortion. Twelve hours before she had to give doctors her decision, Jacob put in an appearance at 23 weeks, weighing 1lb 4oz. Five months later, he has been allowed home - Britain's most premature surviving twin.

Mrs Emma Allen gave birth to identical twins at 23 weeks at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. There was no blanket policy at the hospital about resuscitating premature babies, so Mrs Allen was given the choice. She opted to go ahead. One twin died, but Charlie pulled through and is now five years old and thriving.

At present it is up to individual health trusts to decide whether to follow NHS guidelines on not resuscitating babies born before 24 weeks.

So should such premature babies be resuscitated?

London neonatal paediatrics professor John Wyatt, writing in Triple Helix, the magazine of the Christian Medical Fellowship, says estimates of gestational age can be inaccurate, and a number of factors can affect survival.

Doctors have a legal duty to do the best they can for each individual baby.

"These decisions are painful and difficult. But there is no reason for doom and gloom about premature babies. We should celebrate the successes that have been achieved, value the lives of those who have survived against all the odds, whether disabled or not, and look forward to future advances in the care of these vulnerable citizens."