Jewish World Review May 24, 1999 /9 Sivan, 5759
Baby Hope continued
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
THE BARE FACTS of the Baby Hope case would seem to suggest that Connie
Boyles, the nurse who attempted to care for the premature infant, and Shelly
Lowe, the medical technician who rocked the baby for three hours until she
died, were heroines. That isn't the way their employer saw it. Both women
have now been forced from their jobs.
The Baby Hope case began when a woman said to be 22 weeks pregnant
underwent the first stage of a partial-birth abortion in Ohio. The
abortionist had completed only the first phase of the procedure -- dilating
the cervix -- when the woman, complaining of severe abdominal pain, checked
into the emergency room of her local hospital. She gave birth as she was
The doctor who attended her placed the baby in a specimen dish and handed
it to Shelly Lowe, a medical technician. "Take this to the lab," she
instructed. (Anything taken from the human body is sent to the pathology
lab.) Lowe looked at the perfectly formed little girl in the dish and saw
her breathing. "I don't think I can do that," she told the doctor. "This
baby is alive."
The doctor, still busy with the mother, said, "Well, I'll be there in a
minute. Take it to the utility room." Shelly didn't. With the help of Connie
Boyles and other nurses, she instead took the baby to the resuscitation
unit, where she was weighed, warmed and assessed by a neonatology team.
Baby Hope was judged too premature to live, and when Lowe asked if she
could hold her until she died, she was permitted to do so. Lowe rocked and
sang to Hope, who breathed room air for three hours and then, denied the
benefit of incubation and other intensive care, died.
When the emergency-room nurses discussed the case among themselves, Boyles
was struck by their ignorance. One said, "I didn't know they performed
abortions at 22 weeks." Another offered that the baby was probably brain
damaged anyway from the saline. (Saline is not used in partial-birth abortio
The following day, Boyles contacted a friend in the pro-life movement
and asked for literature to distribute to her colleagues, and the story thus
With the hospital in an uproar, Boyles and Lowe consulted with their
superiors and with "corporate communications." They were told that the
hospital did not impose a gag order on its staff and "we don't want our
employees to be afraid of their employer."
But when Boyles returned to work for her next shift, not a single doctor or
nurse would speak to her. Her offense, she was given to understand in a
tense meeting with her boss, was compromising patient confidentiality. Yet
Boyles had never revealed the name of the mother in the case and points out
that since she never saw the woman, she does not know her name, age, race or
any other identifying information to this day.
"It's the abortion issue," she concludes sadly. "When Cincinnati was hit
with a tornado, all kinds of stories about patients (names excepted) were
given to the press, and no one thought anything about it."
The Baby Hope case plunged Bethesda North Hospital into the center of our
society's moral confusion about prenatal life. Bowles knew that the ER
doctors believed Baby Hope to be more than 22 weeks old. If true, that would
explain a great deal. It would explain how Hope was able to breathe room air
for three hours.
And it would explain why the hospital was so worried about
The weeks between 22 and 25 are critical for viability. Almost no
22-week-old babies survive. But according to figures from Johns Hopkins
Medical Center, 15 percent survive at 23 weeks, 56 percent survive at 24
weeks, and 79 percent survive at 25 weeks.
Certain that she would be fired if she did not quit, Boyles tendered her
resignation -- bitterly. She was an advocate for a patient, albeit an
extremely inconvenient one, and for that, she was found wanting as a nurse.
Lowe, who was suspended, plans to appeal.
No one at Bethesda Hospital would comment -- though its answering tape
advertises positions available for those seeking to work in an environment
of "compassion and
JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here.
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