Suspicious death of baby reveals dangers of genetic testing
Late in the evening on July 9, Baby Lino Mata Vera died
shortly before his birth at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield. The
death of this child was apparently not just another tragedy, but an
incident which at best could have been prevented and at worst may
have actually been precipitated by KMC staff and doctors.
Woman chooses life in spite of a grim diagnosis
Baby Lino had been saved from abortion in February (see
"Counselors work all day, night, and morning to save a baby" in the
February 27 issue of In Touch With LifeSavers). Renee Hughes, Lino's
mother, was subjected against her will to a genetic screening test which
indicated that Lino could have a chromosomal defect. Later tests revealed
that he had Trisomy-18. Dr. Randy Fok (whose office is at 2920 F Street)
and a social worker pressured Renee to abort the baby, arguing that the
infant would be unable to survive outside the womb.
At one point, she had scheduled an abortion at KMC. However,
with encouragement from Debbie Williams and Terri Palmquist of
LifeSavers Ministries (LSM), she eventually decided to carry her baby to
term. "I want to hold my baby, even if I just have a few moments with him
before he dies," she said.
Mother hospitalized to "protect" health of self, baby
To safeguard her health and the health of the baby, Renee had
been forcibly brought to KMC on July 9 by Sheriff's deputies. Earlier that
day, Renee had a routine checkup, where she had several blood pressure
tests. One of the tests indicated that her blood pressure was high; the
nurse said that her health and the health of her baby were at risk, so she
told Renee to check herself into the hospital to have her labor induced.
Renee felt that her body was not ready to deliver the baby,
because her cervix had not dilated or effaced yet, and it was two weeks
before the baby's due date. In addition, she was feeling fine, much better
than she had felt throughout her pregnancy. So she went home, along with
her three year old son.
When deputies came to her apartment, they also attempted to
take her son away, but she successfully hid him at a friend's apartment.
Baby pronounced "dead" while heart was still beating
At the hospital, Renee provided a written request, asking that
Debbie and Terri would be present throughout her labor and delivery, but
the nurses forced them to leave after a few minutes (while admitting that
legally they could not keep them out).
Terri and Debbie, along with Sammy, Baby Lino's father,
witnessed a strong heartbeat (about 138) on the fetal monitor. The doctor
even told Terri that the baby's heartbeat looked healthy.
At about 11:30 pm, Renee was told that her baby had died. The
nurse then turned up the level of pitocin (the labor-inducing agent). After
the nurse left, Sammy watched the baby's heartbeat on the monitor,
skeptical about the claim that his baby had died. At first the heartbeat
continued to be strong, then it began to slow down. When it reached about
125, it quickly slowed down, until it finally stopped.
Sammy knew what he saw. "They killed my baby," he
When Terri questioned the doctor's handling of Renee's labor,
the doctor declared, "if it had been a good baby, I would have done an
emergency cesarean." The medical staff neglected to exercise the ordinary
care they would have given to an infant being born, because, as they saw
it, this was not a "good baby."
LifeSavers volunteers forcibly removed due to "protest"
The baby's body was delivered several hours later, without the
presence of Sammy, Terri or Debbie (in spite of Renee's wishes). The
nurses apparently rushed the delivery, while telling Sammy, Terri and
Debbie that Renee was asleep, in order to prevent anyone from seeing the
baby. After delivery, the baby's body was whisked away. The nurses said
they would not allow Renee to see the baby until Terri and Debbie left.
After Terri and Debbie continued to try to see Renee and the
baby, the hospital staff called the Sheriff's Department. At about 4:30 am,
deputies forcibly removed Terri and Debbie from KMC, telling them that
if they returned they would be arrested for trespassing. However, the
officers refused to state any legal reason for removing them from the
Interestingly, the deputies and security officers explained their
actions by stating that anti-abortion protests may not be conducted at the
Terri had taken a photograph in the hospital, which included
Linda, a nurse who had been the primary agent in this incident. Security
officers and deputies attempted to confiscate the film from Terri, but she
refused to provide it.
"We weren't at KMC to protest abortion, we were there to
comfort our friend," Terri said. "But these circumstances make me
wonder if the death of this child was just a tragic result of negligence, or
a deliberate forced abortion of a 'defective' child."
KMC spin control shuts down media exposure
After LSM issued a press release citing the suspicious
circumstances of Baby Lino's death, Tracy Richardson of Kern Medical
Center issued a statement to the media claiming that the LSM press release
contained "misleading... inaccurate and defamatory" information. The
KMC statement also stated "according to the death certificate, the baby's
death was attributed to Trisomy 18.... Trisomy 18 is a rapidly terminal
condition." Due to the KMC statement, the media ignored Baby Lino's
death, even refusing to broadcast interviews with Renee which had already
Tim Palmquist of LSM called Richardson, offering to set the
record straight. "If there were any inaccuracies in our press release, we
want to know about them," Tim explained. Richardson refused to make
any corrections; instead, she asked Tim to call Mark Nations, the County's
Nations didn't have any information about the case (Richardson
hadn't even bothered to fax him a copy of her statement). Tim asked
Nations to contact him if he ever became aware of any necessary
corrections. "In the meantime, I will continue to consider our press
release to be accurate," Tim said. No demands for corrections were ever
The KMC statement was medically fallacious. According to Dr.
D. Scott Showalter, M.D., M.P.H., and Dr. John C. Carey, M.D., M.P.H.,
"about 5-10% of children with these syndromes do survive the first year
of life, thus, the condition is not universally lethal..." ("Guide for
Professionals" at www.trisomy.org, the website established by SOFT: the
Support Organization for Trisomy-18).
The "cause of death" referred to in the KMC statement was an
assumption, not a diagnosis. When a Trisomy-18 baby dies, the Coroner's
office assumes that the cause of death is Trisomy-18, without any autopsy
Community responds with compassion
In response to the tragedy of Baby Lino's death, Mish Funeral
Home donated their services, and Hillcrest Memorial Park donated a
cemetery plot. When family and friends viewed Baby Lino at Mish
Funeral Home, they saw a beautiful baby. The only visible evidence of
Trisomy-18 was a deformed left hand.
Baby Lino was buried on July 22, in a service conducted by
Pastor Joseph King, interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Greenacres.
A lunch was held at the LifeHouse after the funeral.
Pro-life legal organizations are currently being consulted
regarding possible action against KMC.
This tragedy provides one more reason for pregnant
women to refuse genetic tests. Not only can some of
the tests kill the unborn baby, but a baby who has been
found to have a genetic defect may not receive the same
level of care which would be given to a 'normal' baby. We are
unaware of any positive results of genetic testing. The
purpose of these tests is to serve as a "search and
destroy" mission. Please encourage all pregnant women to
stop this eugenic agenda by refusing to submit to genetic