A Scottish mom is urging the United Kingdom to change its rules regarding babies’ viability after she said she was forced to watch her premature baby die when doctors refused to save his life.
Ashley Glass said she gave birth to her son, Dylan, on March 2, 2014, but because he was born before the legal abortion limit, he was not given medical care, according to The Sun. Now, Glass is petitioning to change the rules that allows medical professionals to deny treatment to babies born before 24 weeks, currently considered the point of viability.
New studies suggest the viability mark should be pushed back earlier because of modern medical advancements. Very premature babies are surviving at 23 weeks when they receive proper medical care.
But Glass can only wonder if her son might have been one of them.
“We were completely powerless, I wanted to run through the hospital with him screaming and begging for someone to help him,” she told The Sun.
“I just felt like such a failure of a mum to leave without my baby. When you leave with nothing it just feels like you are throwing your baby in the bin. That’s the feeling I have never been able to get away from. Every single day of my life I go over giving birth to him again,” she continued.
Glass said doctors are not sure why she went into labor so early in March 2014. She gave birth to Dylan after 23 weeks of pregnancy at the Royal Infirmary Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland with her family by her side, according to the report.
Dylan lived for just four minutes, and Glass said she had to watch in horror and desperation as she saw him struggle to breathe.
“It was so traumatic hearing him trying to breathe and watching him struggle and wriggle in pain in my mum’s arms – we just had to watch in horror,” she remembered. “It is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life and I don’t know how anyone can ever get over that. I will never be able to get the image of my child suffering like that out of my head.”
Glass said she was hysterical when she learned that the doctors would not try to save her son.
“Before he was born he had a strong heartbeat and I asked the doctors and nurses what would happen when he came, would he be taken to a specialist hospital in Glasgow,” she continued. “Then they told me that if he was born before 24 weeks there was nothing they would do – they said it was the law that they weren’t allowed to help. I was gobsmacked – everything after that was a blur.
“I was hysterical, fixed on the fact they weren’t going to help. … They told me there was a risk of him having disability but he was my child and I would have loved him regardless. Surely you have to try?” Glass said.
A spokesman for the National Health Service Dumfries and Galloway said they sympathize with the family, but such cases “pose a medical and ethical challenge.”
“We endeavor to ensure that the multidisciplinary neonatal and obstetric team provide the best possible advice to parents and seek to achieve a consensus on the best way forward that provides the best care for mother and baby,” the spokesman told The Sun. “There is international consensus that at 22 weeks gestation there is no hope of survival.”
Glass had a different experience with her daughter, Jessica, who was also born very prematurely in August 2015. Jessica was born after 27 weeks of pregnancy, weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces. Doctors rushed her to a neonatal intensive care unit where they worked to save her life, her mother recalled.
Still, the experience brought back fears for Glass. She said she kept waiting for the doctors to tell her that Jessica had died, just as Dylan had. Instead, Jessica lived. Her mother said her little girl now is home and perfectly healthy.
“I am fighting for justice for my son and every other baby that never had the chance at life – the law needs to be changed, something needs to be done.”
Glass began a petition to change the law, and more than 2,000 people have signed it so far. Find it here.
Further evidence of the need for a change is a little girl named Maddalena Douse, who was born very prematurely in 2012.
In Great Britain, doctors consider 1 pound the minimum weight for a baby to be considered viable and worth extra efforts to save his or her life. When doctors weighed Maddalena, she came in at exactly 1 pound, so physicians made the decision to try to save her.
It was not until after Maddalena had been delivered and placed on a ventilator that doctors discovered the scissors they accidentally left on the scale at the time she was weighed. The Sun reported Maddalena actually weighed .84 pounds, or about 13 ounces. After months in the hospital, Maddalena was discharged from the hospital in time for Christmas. Reports indicate she is doing well.
The accident saved Maddalena’s life. It serves as yet another sign that Great Britain’s medical leaders should reconsider the limits they have placed on saving babies’ lives.