Baby dies because mother refused newborn vitamin K shot


The cornerstone principle of preventive medicine is that it is better to prevent disease than to to treat it after it has developed. That seems to be a non-controversial principle, except, apparently, in the world of infant and child woo. There the typical response to devastating preventable diseases and injuries is to pretend that they won’t happen.

Homebirth advocates like to pretend that life threatening complications don’t occur in childirth; midwifery proponents like to pretend that there is plenty of time to transfer to physician care when life threatening complications do occur; anti-vaccinationists like to pretend that vaccines are unnecessary, and all of them delight in the fantasy that “good nutrition” and a “strong immune system” are magically protective against everything.

It has become highly fashionable among some Western, white, relatively well off women to refuse standard newborn preventive care, whether that is the Hep B vaccine, neonatal ophthalmic ointment, or vitamin K shots. Proponents of this transgressive behavior like to think that it marks them as independent thinkers. It doesn’t; it marks them as ignorant, gullible and willing to take terrible risks with the lives of their children for no better reason that to preen to themselves and others.

It also marks them as wishful thinkers who pretend that their child will never be exposed to hepatitis B, that their partner would never have an affair and become infected with gonorrhea and that their child’s blood will clot in the absence of adequate vitamin K.

As a result, children die agonizing preventable deaths like this poor infant who sustained massive intracranial bleeding because her mother refused the shot that would have prevented it.

According to the Coroner’s Court:

The baby’s … initial neonatal examination was also normal. In accordance with her parents’ wishes and the birthing plan, she did not receive Vitamin K, nor was she vaccinated for Hepatitis B. Information relating to the vitamin K injection was provided to the parents during their first antenatal visit. The information stated the reasons why vitamin K is recommended, namely that it assists the blood to clot and that newborn babies require it to prevent bleeding problems especially in the first few months after birth. The parents submitted a birth plan, which stated their decision not to have vitamin K administered…

The baby was exclusively breastfed (the major risk factor for vitamin K deficiency) and was doing well. Then:

One month after the birth, the mother noticed that the baby had been sleeping a lot and was not feeding as much as usual. She was noted to cry out at times and then settle. She went to sleep that night, but an hour later, she vomited. In the early hours of the next morning, the mother went to change her nappy and she was seen to be limp. The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) was contacted.

What had happened?

A CT scan … showed widespread subarachnoid haemorrhage and left sided subdural haemorrhage (bleeding on the surface and beneath the dura/lining of the brain). This was causing some effacement of the left ventricle (compression of the cavity within the brain as a result of increased pressure and mass effect). There was also loss of grey/white differentiation of the brain matter, which indicated damage to the brain and widening of the spaces between the skull bones. No fractures were seen. There was haemorrhaging within both eyes, and her pupils were non-reactive.

A blood test called an INR (International Normalised Ratio) was conducted. This test measures the time it takes for blood to clot and compares it to an average, with one being normal and 10 being extremely thin and prone to bleeding. The baby’s measurement was 10.

In other words, the baby had developed hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, the very condition that the vitamin K shot is designed to prevent. As a result, she bled into her head so much and for so long that her brain was compressed and destroyed.

The baby’s condition did not improve overnight or into the next morning. There remained markedly elevated intracranial pressure and her prognosis was considered to be extremely poor. She remained on ventilation over night. Following discussion with her parents, the baby’s life support measures were withdrawn the next morning and she subsequently died.

The baby died a painful, prolonged and entirely senseless death because the person she depended on to protect her, her mother, thought she knew better than the pediatricians for whom vitamin K has been standard prophylaxis for more than 50 years. Why did the mother think she knew better? Because she read it in a book or on a website and it sounded good to her.

Being a parent ought to mean putting a child’s health and brain function before anything else, including the mother’s desire to be transgressive, and even the mother’s distress at her child’s temporary discomfort as a result of an injection. It means taking the advice of experts, not pretending that you are an expert. It means doing whatever you can to prevent the child’s death and disability,not pretending that wishful thinking is a form of preventive care.