By Erin K Costello
There is often a story or two making the rounds that depict parents as the innocent intended victims of medical institutions or of the State. Stories like the one presented here are a perfect example of why no one should ever simply believe what they read at face value, and maybe even take 30 seconds to conduct a quick Google search on the event in question. This is especially true when reading such reports found in the anti-vaccine community. This older story was found to recently be making the rounds in the Facebook group Stop Mandatory Vaccination, a group owned by Larry Cook of the website by the same name.
This is your typical anti-vaccine fairy tale, or #AlexPost or #AlexStory (named after the Jeopardy meme depicting a contestant saying to the show's host "I'll take 'Shit that Never Happened' for $1000, Alex"). Before we begin, let me state that it is true that Jodi Ferris went into labor early on this day, and did arrive at the hospital by ambulance, as well as did deliver her child in the hospital parking lot at Hershey Medical Center. It's when the Ferrises enter the hospital that their version is riddled with holes, inconsistencies, and conflicting accounts than what the hospital describes as occurring.
What The Family Claims
According to Health Impact News, in June of 2010 Jodi Ferris went into early labor with her child, who is referred to as A.F. in court proceedings. She and her husband, Scott Ferris, were planning on having a home birth until Jodi went into labor about 2 and 1/2 weeks early. She claims to have called an ambulance at the direction of her midwife due to their location and other factors (though those factors are never revealed), though in later accounts she never mentions the midwife. The baby had arrived so rapidly that she ended up being delivered in the ambulance while in the hospital parking lot!
After the baby's arrival, both Jodi and A.F. were brought into the hospital. Once admitted to the hospital Jodi claims she wasn't able to see her newborn, nor were her questions answered regarding the newborn's current status. She then claims the hospital nurses started to administer an injection to Jodi without telling her what it was for. Upon asking what the injection was Jodi claims they gave vague answers and said "It's just to help." Only after the injection was administered does Jodi claim they informed her the medication was oxytocin and followed this up by asking, "You aren't allergic to that are you?"
Jodi then claims to have received conflicting accounts of the newborn's health status. She first claims a doctor informed her how A.F. had scored a 9 on the APGAR test (8 or higher is considered healthy). But then claims that soon after this update a different doctor told Jodi that A.F. was "very sick" and would need to remain in the hospital. Jodi claims this doctor followed up his assessment with "Too many people think they know what they are doing" when speaking about Jodi having a midwife. Jodi then claims about an hour later the staff brought A.F. to her and a staffer informed Jodi that "The baby is doing good. She will be able to go home in no time."
It is then claimed that several hours later Scott and Jodi were told that A.F. would need to stay in the hospital for 48-72 hours for observation. The Ferrises apparently found this to be unnecessary and questioned why their newborn would need to stay for this period. Allegedly, they were told this was because "the law requires us to keep the baby for 48 hours." After some back and forth about this law and the need for the stay the Ferrises claim the hospital's risk management employee admitted the risk they were concerned with was not the health of A.F., but the risk the hospital might get sued if something went wrong after the newborn was discharged. In the end the hospital and said they'd be satisfied with a 24 hour stay and that Jodi and Scott could remain with the baby overnight.
Later on that afternoon a social worker came to visit Jodi in her hospital room to conduct an investigation. Jodi alleges the worker refused to inform Jodi of the allegations, but soon intimated that the issue was Jodi's refusal to consent to medical treatment for the newborn. The hospital had claimed that Jodi refused the vitamin K shot and other necessary treatment.
Shortly after this Scott is claimed to have left the hospital to tend to their other children. While in his absence Jodi claims the hospital asked to check A.F's white blood cell count and perform a strep test, to which she states to have agreed to. She then says the hospital demanded to give A.F. the Hep B vaccine. Jodi claims to have said she'd agree to this shot if the hospital tested both she and A.F. and found one or both to be positive for Hep B. The social worker is then alleged to have pressured Jodi to make a decision about this vaccine immediately, disregarding Jodi's desire to wait for Scott to return for the two of them to decide together. It was Jodi's insistence to wait for her husband to return that she claims caused the social worker to threaten to have police take custody of the newborn.
It was after the social worker carried out this threat and called police that Jodi claims to have been forced to leave the hospital, allowing her only to return every 3 hours to breastfeed the newborn.
The next morning a judicial officer held a shelter care hearing and immediately returned custody of Annie to her parents.
Obvious Problems With Parent's Claims
Jodi claims to have been treated very poorly from the start by the hospital staff. I personally find it hard to believe staff would force an injection on someone while ignoring their questions as to what it was and what it was for. I'm sure it has happened in the past for some reason, though I find it unlikely to happen often.
I find it suspect that a midwife would suggest an ambulance if everything was happening without concern. I find it suspect that their location, the same location taken into account while planning a home birth, was suddenly a reason for calling an ambulance. I also find it suspect that these "other factors" are never stated.
I mostly don't understand Jodi's frustration with the hospital's desire to keep the baby for 48-72 for observation. This is routine procedure for full term newborns, naturally it should be expected for a newborn born a couple weeks early.
I also find myself skeptical that Jodi claims to have been forced to leave the hospital. This was within hours after she had given birth. If the hospital is concerned with the legal risk of allowing the newborn to leave the hospital early, wouldn't they also be concerned with the legal risk of forcing the mother to leave the hospital early? Jodi isn't claiming to have left the hospital AMA (against medical advice) and by her choice. She is claiming to have been "forced" to leave by the hospital. Then she alleges the hospital was willing to allow her to come back every 3 hours to breastfeed. If she was such a concern that the hospital was willing to take the legal risk of forcing her to leave their care, why were they comfortable with allowing her to come back every 3 hours?
Her child was born early, and the Ferrises are refusing routine newborn medical care for the child. Next, the Ferrises question why they can't then leave with the newborn and why the child should have to stay for observation for up to 72 hours. Jodi also claims this hold isn't recommended on behalf of Annie, but on behalf of the legal risk the hospital potentially faces, as though this reasoning is nefarious in nature. Because of the actions of the Ferrises, I'd be surprised if a social worker had not been called to intervene and assess.
The Truth as Found in a Court of Law
Here is where we can learn what actually happened. According to the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit [emphasis mine],
"We conclude, therefore, that the hospital physicians' belief that A.F was Born premature, near death, in respiratory distress, and little if any information was available to attending medical personnel about the level of pre-natal care she received. Further, Mrs. Ferris could not confirm her Rh status, nor did she provide medical personnel with her GBS status. Her statements that A.F. received prenatal care from a midwife were contradicted by the midwife herself. Mrs. Ferris forbade treatment with such therapies as triple dye, erythromycin, and the Hepatitis B inoculation. Also, the record reflects Mrs. Ferris' uncooperative and unhelpful interactions with the hospital physicians and the social worker, in addition to some unorthodox behavior such as insisting on holding the infant while she urinated and underwent a surgical procedure. All of these things were reasonably relied on by the hospital physicians and the social worker in deciding that A.F. was in serious risk of imminent harm and to remove her from her parent's custody."
Oh, and Jodi's claim to request to have she and her child tested for Hep B before agreeing to the vaccine? Here is what was the court had to say regarding this [emphasis mine],
"The Ferrises focus with particularly on the hospital physician's desire to give A.F. a vaccine to protect against Hepatitis B. They maintain that such treatment was "unnecessary" since it would have been equally effective if was administered within twenty-four hours of birth, as opposed to twelve hours. But, the Ferrises presented no clinical evidence to support their assertion. To the contrary, the hospital physicians testified that although the vaccine retains its effectiveness when given twenty-four hours after birth, the additional delay resulted in an increased risk of infection and/or transmission to the infant. Additionally, Mrs. Ferris' Hepatitis status was unknown to the hospital physicians because she refused to provide them with any medical history. All of this allowed the hospital physicians to reasonably suspect neglect and therefore, the District Court did not err by upholding the seizure of their daughter as lawful."
Stories such as this that routinely circle the anti-vaccine communities are often riddled with lies and inconsistencies. I understand the State is not always right in their actions, nor are hospitals, however, their actions are not personal in nature, or decided upon based on anger or hate towards the parents. I also understand that the issue of where parental rights end, and where the State's obligations begin is not something that is easily decided or agreed to by everyone. These are not issues I'm choosing to address with this blog post. The latter of which I do not feel I am, or believe I am qualified to write about. The law is not an area where I have much experience. I only aim to point out how yet another event shared by the anti-vaccine community is misleading and/or lacking in vital information for the deliberate purpose of using the revised version as propaganda to manipulate readers. The truth doesn't need to lie. The peddled bullshit though is need of more bullshit.
What's The Harm?