- Attorney Richard Dvorak filed a lawsuit on behalf of several parents against multiple hospitals and the Illinois DCFS
- In 2015 the Illinois DCFS introduced a policy making vitamin K shots mandatory in newborns
- If a parent denied the vitamin K shot an investigation was opened with DCFS for medical neglect
- In 2018 DCFS rescinded the policy due to concerns they were possibly overstepping their boundaries
- DCFS investigations for refusing vitamin K shots continue to happen as recently as April according to the lawsuit
In 2015 the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services introduced a policy that deemed vitamin K shots in newborns “medically necessary.” Four years later, multiple parents are suing major hospitals and DCFS for wrongful medical neglect investigations for refusing the shot.
Medical Negligence For Refusing Vitamin K
On August 2, 2018, former Acting Director of DCFS Beverly “BJ” Walker issued a memorandum rescinding the mandatory vitamin K shot in newborns. In the memo Walker wrote, “we are simply trying to make sure that we are not overstepping the boundaries established for us under state law.”
In total, 138 families were investigated due to vitamin K refusals with only seven of those investigations providing evidence of medical negligence. The policy accused parents or guardians that refused vitamin K shots of medical neglect.
For the purpose of child protection services, the administration of silver nitrate or ophthalmic solution and vitamin k shots or pills to newborns is considered medically necessary. calls received at scr concerning a parent or guardian denying consent of the administration of these treatments shall be taken as reports of medical neglect.Illinois Department of Children & Families
Why Do Newborns Receive Vitamin K Shots
It is normal for babies to be born with low levels of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps the body to clot blood. Low levels can lead to a rare condition known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding. The condition was formally known as hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. If the baby’s blood does not clot they can suffer from severe bleeding or hemorrhaging that can be life-threatening. Low levels of vitamin K is the main cause of this condition.
Typically vitamin K shots are the parents’ choice. While not mandatory, medical experts strongly recommend getting the shot. In Australia, 30 years of using vitamin K shots have not proven to cause any problems. A few years ago one study claimed that vitamin K possibly caused cancer but the six studies that followed were not able to find any link to cancer.
Richard Dvorak Files Lawsuit Against DCFS And Major Hospitals
Despite the policy being rescinded, several families say they were accused of medical neglect and forced into DCFS investigations for refusing the vitamin K shot. On Monday attorney Richard Dvorak filed a 103-page lawsuit on behalf of several parents against Silver Cross Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, the American Academy of Pediatrics, several pediatricians, and some top officials at DCFS.
While there are currently only several parents named, Dvorak said the lawsuit is far-reaching. he believes there is a chance more parents will join the lawsuit as it continues to go public. The case specifically targets the old policy from DCFS regarding the mandatory use of vitamin K on newborns.
Medical Neglect Investigations
Courtney Hill and James Holderman are two of the parents in the lawsuit. The couple claims they were investigated for five weeks after signing an informed consent waiver refusing the administration of vitamin K and other optional procedures, such as a blood screening and eye ointment. “My wife was traumatized. You know, we’re scared, and I thought this is maybe a fluke. But now I see this is a widespread practice, and it’s impacting many, many parents,” Holderman told CBS Chicago 2.
Angela and Brian Bougher are also on the lawsuit. The couple claims after they gave birth to their daughter last winter the newborn was taken from them for 12 hours. The Boughers say they are not “anti-vaxxers” and are not against any procedures that are truly medically necessary. After the couple refused the vitamin K shot the nurse called DCFS. Brian is a Chicago pastor and the couples refused to vitamin K due to their religious beliefs.
During the 12 hour protective hold on the newborn Angela was only allowed to breastfeed once. Angela did not take an epidural. The delivery was the Bougher’s fifth child. According to the lawsuit, when the Boughers begged to see the baby a doctor attempted to coerce them into getting the vitamin K shot and called their religious beliefs “stupid” and “wrong.” The incident with the Boughers occurred on February 7, 2018, before the policy had been rescinded. The baby was returned to the couple with no explanation later in the night.
The next day a DCFS investigator came to Angela’s hospital room. The investigator told the couple doctors confirmed the baby was healthy and that the medical neglect charge would be deemed unfounded. However, to close the case someone would have to visit the Bougher’s home to verify their other four children were unharmed. About a week later, the Boughers were shaken to see Joliet police officers at their home to check on the children.
Former DCFS Director George Sheldon
The policy to open an investigation against parents that refused vitamin K was created by former DCFS Director George Sheldon. He took the position in 2015, the same year he created the policy. Sheldon later resigned in June 2017 while facing an ethics probe along with a series of child deaths and “scandalous headlines.” In August 2018, 71-year-old Sheldon died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach following post-operative complications from a neck injury he received while exercising. From 2008 through 2011 Sheldon ran the troubled Florida Department of Children and Families.
By May 2017, a doctor who was the chair of a prenatal committee for the Illinois Department of Public Health pointed out concerns with the policy. At a meeting the following month, DCFS said investigating families for refusing vitamin K may not be the “appropriate way to solve the issue.” DCFS officials said they were in the process of amending the policy. The following three months after the policy was rescinded in 2018 there were 25 calls about vitamin K to the DCFS hotline. According to the lawsuit, DCFS opened 15 new investigations from those calls. In April of this year, the hotline received 10 calls and opened six investigations.
Danielle Anderson Called The Police On A Doctor
The most recent case on the lawsuit is Danielle Anderson. In February Anderson gave birth to her second child at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Before declining the vitamin K shot an obstetrician at the hospital said there would be no consequences for declining. After she refused the shot Anderson claims the doctor in the delivery room warned her that the hospital “would take away her baby” for declining the shot. After Anderson continued to refuse the shot a doctor came to her room with security and said he was going to physically remove the baby.
Not knowing what was going on but fearing she was at risk of having her newborn taken, Anderson called the police. Two officers arrived within ten minutes of the call. The officers spoke to the doctor and told him to stop pressuring Anderson. Anderson left the hospital later that day. A week later, a DCFS investigator came to her house twice. The investigator checked on the children and found the allegation to be unfounded.