A life-saving operation on a sick baby at the centre of a stand-off over the use of vaccinated people’s blood has been successfully completed and the child is now recovering in hospital.
The parent’s lawyer Sue Grey confirmed to the Herald this evening she had spoken to the parents and “everyone’s exhausted and are just so relieved that he’s come through the surgery.”
She said the parents had been allowed to see their child following the operation and were relieved it had gone well.
“People were desperate to hear the news,” Grey said, “it’s been quite an amazing and stressful journey.” She thanked the Herald for its ongoing reporting.
Starship children’s hospital has beefed up its security this week to “maintain safety” as it supports the family of the gravely ill baby who is now in the guardianship of the High Court to ensure it underwent the surgery.
And Auckland health authorities confirm they have trespassed one person from hospital facilities this week as tensions rose.
Supporters of the baby’s parents, who unsuccessfully fought to prevent the boy receiving blood transfusions from vaccinated donors, held a vigil outside Starship children’s hospital while his surgery began this morning.
On Wednesday Justice Ian Gault ruled in favour of health authorities who had sought court guardianship of the baby boy. The parents wanted a court order to receive blood from exclusively unvaccinated donors.
Justice Gault delivered his ruling after a lengthy hearing on Tuesday, where Te Whatu Ora-Health New Zealand and the parents’ lawyer Sue Grey locked horns in the High Court at Auckland as anti-vax protesters gathered outside.
Te Whatu Ora Auckland interim director Dr Mike Shepherd told the Herald in a statement extra security measures had been implemented to ensure clinical teams could continue to provide patient care and allow families to visit their loved ones.
Shepherd said someone was trespassed from the hospital earlier this week, which follows veteran broadcaster-turned-conspiracist Liz Gunn’s claims that she and the baby’s father had been trespassed.
“From time to time, it may be necessary to trespass an individual or individuals from our site, sometimes only for a few hours, if they are impacting our clinical team’s ability to care for patients,” Shepherd said.
He said it remained the hospital’s priority to “work alongside the baby’s whānau as we continue to care for him”.
Police had to take the baby from his parents, as they protested with officers and medical professionals, in order for him to have pre-operation checks last night. The police intervention was captured on video.
It came after the High Court last night made an emergency order for the parents to stop blocking doctors from carrying out the operation. The parents allegedly told doctors trying to prepare the baby for surgery: “You touch our child and we will press criminal charges against you.”
Footage of police intervening to allow the baby to prepare for his surgery shows an officer explaining to the parents the baby needs the procedure as soon as possible, as another walks towards the baby to take him
The mother, who appeared to be crying, says to the officers, “please stop”, the father then steps in and starts calling the officers “criminals”.
“You guys are criminals, you are criminals, you are conducting a criminal act here,” the father said.
The tearful mother then says, “how can you do this.. oh my god”, she yells at the officers, “get out of my way, get out of my way, can you please get out of my way,” as they stand in front of her trying to stop her from leaving.
Officers continue to reason with the couple as they continue to protest the need for the baby to have his pre-operation checks.
High Court makes emergency order on Thursday evening stopping parents from blocking doctors
Justice Ian Gault made an emergency order last night after the baby’s parents allegedly tried to prevent doctors from carrying out pre-operative checks.
The judge said Te Toka Tumai-Auckland Health sought an urgent court order clarifying “that the police are entitled to use reasonable force to remove Baby W from the parents and/or remove the parents in order to facilitate the steps necessary prior to Baby W’s surgery, including taking him to surgery when it occurs”.
A judgment said that yesterday afternoon, staff attempted to prepare the baby, whose identity is suppressed, for surgery, including taking blood tests, performing a chest X-ray and performing an anaesthetic assessment.
Te Toka Tumai-Auckland Health told the judge the parents had prevented this from occurring and threatened criminal charges, forcing the doctors to seek legal clarification.
Grey also sought advice from two United States experts who were seeking the opportunity to appear before the court or to discuss these issues with the Starship hospital surgeon, cardiologist and NZ Blood Service (NZBS).
They argued that the baby’s surgery could be delayed a week to “consider all options”. Grey referred to allowing time for the parents’ concerns, which she said were supported by new information and new expert evidence, to be addressed, and further submitted that there was “no urgency” for the surgery.
Justice Gault recorded that Grey was effectively seeking to reopen the judgment delivered yesterday.
He said it was previously common ground that Baby W needed surgery – the issue was in relation to consent to blood transfusion.
“Now that the parents evidently do not consent to the surgery or pre-operative checks, it is clearly necessary to make consequential ancillary orders to enable the surgery to proceed.
“Baby W urgently requires surgery and, as I concluded in my judgment, an order enabling the surgery to proceed using NZBS blood products without further delay is in Baby W’s best interests.
“I said in my judgment that it should not be necessary to make more explicit ancillary orders, but given the position being taken by the parents today, such ancillary orders are now required.”
He extended the authority of the doctors to enable the surgery and all pre-operative work to proceed and ordered the parents not to obstruct health staff.
Baby W put in guardianship of High Court on Wednesday morning
Justice Ian Gault ordered the baby, who has automatic name suppression, to be placed under the guardianship of the High Court “from the date of the order until completion of his surgery and post-operative recovery to address obstruction to the outflow tract of his right ventricle and at latest until January 31, 2023″.
His ruling said the baby’s parents remain his legal guardians aside from the medical matters covered in the order.
The child has a heart valve disorder requiring urgent surgery and medical experts have said he would normally have received treatment a long time ago.
“His survival is actually dependent on the application being granted,” Paul White, lawyer for Te Whatu Ora, said earlier.
Justice Gault also declined an order sought by Grey for the NZ Blood Service to establish a tailored donor service for the boy to receive blood exclusively from unvaccinated donors.
A lawyer for the blood service, Adam Ross, KC, on Tuesday described the request for that order as exceptional and without precedent.
Ross said it would jeopardise the integrity of the donor service and open the door to ethically and clinically bankrupt requests regarding donor blood.
White said specialists believed the child’s heart was suffering damage because of the delay in surgery due to the build-up of blood resulting from pulmonary valve stenosis.
The parents and the baby, who was born two months premature, were in the packed public gallery for a short time on Tuesday morning - against medical advice.
In his conclusion of the 23-page judgment, Justice Gault said he accepted the parents of the baby had genuine concerns about the risk of using blood from vaccinated donors.
“However, the issue here is what is in [the baby’s] best interests.”
The parents’ alternative proposal was not viable, the judge said. “I cannot conclude it is a safe alternative that is in [the baby’s] best interests.
“For these reasons, and given that [the baby] needs urgent surgery, an order enabling the surgery to proceed using [NZ Blood Service] blood products without further delay is in [the baby’s] best interests.”
The ruling drew a furious reaction from the anti-vaccine movement.