RENÉE C. BYER / rbyer@sacbee.com

Simone Morin, next to daughter Isadora, holds son Ivan Cooper, delivered April 11 by her husband, Dr. Daniel Cooper, left.

Son's delivery puts doctor at odds with his own Folsom hospital

Published: Saturday, Apr. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 30, 2012 - 8:29 am

Six days old, Ivan Cooper slept peacefully in his mother's arms last week, unaware of the turmoil surrounding his birth.

Cooper was born April 11 at Mercy Hospital in Folsom. His mother, Simone Morin, wanted a natural childbirth, even refusing ibuprofen after nine hours of labor. His father, Dr. Daniel Cooper, is the hospital's former chief of staff who proudly delivered his son that morning.

Their celebration didn't last long. Within hours of his birth, the newborn was at the center of what the couple describe as a dispute between them and the hospital over the medical treatments that parents can refuse for their children.

The dispute escalated, the doctor and his wife said, when they left the hospital with the baby – 12 hours after he was born – against medical advice. Alarmed staff called Child Protective Services to report the child was in potential danger, they said.

"What was supposed to be a wonderful day turned into a very stressful one," said Cooper, 53. "If this could happen to me, a doctor with privileges at the hospital, how is an 18-year-old who may not know her rights treated?"

Now Cooper and Morin have filed a complaint against the hospital with the Joint Commission, a not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care programs in the United States. Officials with the commission said they could not comment on Cooper's complaint.

Hospital officials also said they could not comment on the complaint, citing privacy and legal concerns.

In a statement, Don Hudson, president of Mercy Hospital Folsom, said: "Parents have the right to refuse treatment for themselves and their children. However, health care providers may be obligated to notify the appropriate authorities if refusing treatment places a child's health in potential danger."

Cooper and Morin deny their child was in potential danger. "He went home with his father, a doctor," Cooper said. "I'm stunned that they could think he was in danger."

Cooper and Morin had planned a stress-free home birth for their first child together. A midwife was on call. Labor was on a birthing ball. Lights would be dimmed.

Morin, 37, has a 5-year-old daughter, Isadora. Morin knew that she wanted a home birth for her second child. Cooper, who has a thriving family practice in Folsom with more than 10,000 patients, said he was reluctant. But Morin consulted with a midwife, prepared their Fair Oaks home and eventually persuaded Cooper.

Morin's labor went well at first. But when the baby showed signs of stress, Cooper insisted Morin go to Mercy Hospital in Folsom where he served a two-year term as chief of staff that ended in January. Working with the labor and delivery medical team – which Cooper praised – the physician delivered Ivan at 6:01 a.m. on April 11.

The problems started almost as soon as the baby was born – even the time of his birth is in dispute. His birth certificate states he was born at 6:06 am. His father insists it was 6:01 a.m.

Cooper said a doctor assigned to his son's care and a nurse entered Morin's room and began criticizing Morin's decision to have a vaginal delivery after having a C-section.

The new parents said they were at odds with the medical staff about treatment throughout the day, from when to bathe the baby – the nurse wanted to wash him immediately, Morin wanted to wait – to how to administer the vitamin K that is routinely given to newborns to help prevent a rare problem of bleeding into the brain weeks after childbirth. The doctor wanted to give the baby a shot, the couple said. Cooper brought the vitamin in liquid form to the hospital.

They said they disagreed about other treatments, including drawing blood for the baby. Cooper and Morin said their tone was calm. "There was no yelling or anything like that," Cooper said. "We just disagreed."

In retrospect, Cooper said he should have transferred his son to his care. "That way he would have been my patient and I could have discharged him," he said. But Cooper said he didn't want to do that out of respect to the staff.

After several hours of going back and forth, Cooper went home to pick up the baby's car seat. When he returned to the hospital, he learned the nurse had called Child Protective Services. The family – all three of them – left the hospital.

Officials with Child Protective Services said they also could not comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.

But the agency did issue a statement to the Bee: "Parents have the right to make medical decisions on behalf of their children, including declining health and medical intervention. CPS does not have the authority to intervene in these cases unless there is imminent risk of serious harm to the health of the child."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jennifer Garza



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