COLUMBUS, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Ohio hospital refused to save pre-term twins born alive and inaccurately recorded their delivery as "stillbirth."
In June 2017, when Amanda F. (last name withheld) began bleeding, she became fearful for her unborn twin boys and checked into Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus.
She was told by hospital staff that, if they were born before 22 weeks and five days, "there would be no attempt to resuscitate them." After three days in the hospital, Amanda delivered Emery and Elliot alive, at the very cusp of the hospital's cut-off for treatment.
Her mother, present in the hospital, asked when the doctor and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) representatives would arrive.
"We were told the babies were coming too early, that NICU would not be present for the birth and no effort would be made to help the twins," Amanda said.
Mark Harrington, founder of pro-life advocacy group Created Equal, told Church Militant that Amanda reached out to them shortly after the incident. In a statement, Amanda said she was promised by hospital staff that if she made it to 22 weeks and five days, then they would consider intervention.
The video shows the twins alive and breathing and Amanda pleading for help from hospital staff. Emery was born first and she said "no medical team member was present. He landed on the edge of the bed."
Elliot was bigger and, according to Amanda, "not only was he breathing, like Emery, but he was also crying." She said she repeatedly asked for help and pleaded with staff to assess her babies.
"He lived for two and a half hours while they did nothing," she said — in spite of the fact that hospital staff had assured her they would be stillborn or "only breathe for a moment."
Harrington said, "It is entirely false to consider the death of a baby hours after delivery 'stillbirth,'" adding, "the hospital's staff's refusal to assess or attempt assistance for the babies after they made it to the 22-week, five-day cut-off is outrageous."
Amanda has proof that the babies were born at 22 weeks and five days. "Nevertheless, when I begged for help, they refused," she said.
Church Militant spoke with Mark Hopkins, director of media relations for Ohio Health, parent company of Riverside Methodist Hospital, who told us he was very limited in what he could say without violating HIPPA privacy laws.
Hopkins said that, in general terms, caring for premature babies "is never a simple matter." He refuted the claim that nothing was being done and said "care was being rendered." Looking at the video, he claimed assistance had "shifted to palliative care," where the babies were being "kept warm, bundled and placed on their mother's chest for their last moments of life."
He said the hospitals in the Ohio Health group follow the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists' (ACOG) national standards when determining viability, noting there are other factors considered beyond gestational age when determining if babies are viable.
ACOG defines any delivery occurring between 20 weeks and 25 weeks and 6 days as a peri-viable birth. Their standards refer to a study conducted between 2006 and 2011 that found between 3–5 percent of babies born at 22 weeks' gestation survived without severe impairment. This study also found that there were significant variations in survivability based on the type of care received at the hospital:
It remains true in the present day that delivery before 23 weeks of gestation typically results in neonatal death (5 to 6 percent survival), and among rare survivors, significant morbidity is universal (98 to 100 percent). However, a recent study demonstrated that wide variation in practices exists regarding the initiation of resuscitation and active treatment at these very early gestational ages and that this variation explains some of the between-hospital differences in survival and survival without impairment, particularly at 22 weeks and 23 weeks.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2015 that nearly 25 percent of babies born at 22 weeks would live and others claim that the standard of viability should be changed to 22 weeks which, if adopted, could have implications on late-term abortion laws.
Hopkins said their hospitals are "always looking to the very latest advances in care" for treatment of pre-term babies.
"I was discharged with instructions for care after stillbirth," Amanda said. "But Emery and Elliot were not stillborn. They were born alive and died as Riverside Methodist Hospital staff denied my pleas for help."
Created Equal helped Amanda file internal complaints with Riverside, hoping for them to respond privately. The hospital replied, "The ethics and compliance department has investigated and addressed the concern brought by the caller. If further incidents occur, please notify compliance line or local management. We consider this matter closed."
Created Equal created a petition to send to Riverside Methodist Hospital's CEO demanding an apology. Harrington said it currently has over 2,300 signatures.
"Amanda wants to spare other mothers and fathers what she has been through," Harrington said. "She hopes, at a minimum, parents will be educated by what happened to her and thus become better informed themselves when considering which hospital to choose when preparing for delivery."