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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 contended.

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 hospital.

Interestingly, the deputies and security officers explained their actions by stating that anti-abortion protests may not be conducted at the hospital.

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 been recorded.

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 litigation attorney.

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 received.

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, 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 or examination.

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 tests.

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