Vitamin K Refusal By Mother Kills One Month Old Daughter

Vitamin K Refusal By Mother Kills One Month Old Daughter February 9, 2019

In 2011, a 33-day-old baby in Australia died from an enormous bleed in her brain due to Vitamin K deficiency. When she was born, her parents declined the recommendation that she receive an injection of the vitamin. Her parents believed the shot was unnecessary and that choice proved fatal for the girl.

A coroner’s report from 2011 outlined the tragic passing of the baby and provided insight into the parent’s decision. According to the report, the mother, we will call Ann, desired a natural birth without medications or interventions. A 20-week anatomy scan indicated the baby was developing normally.

During one of her prenatal visits, the doctor talked with Ann about vaccines and Vitamin K injections. The doctor explained to her that babies need vitamin k to help with blood clotting. If a baby does not receive the injection, they are at risk of developing life-threatening bleeds.

Unswayed by the doctor’s rationale for the shot, Ann submitted a birth plan to the doctors. The birth plan stated that she did not want her daughter to receive any vaccines or vitamins after her birth.  Doctors placed the directive in her health record. The record would be used as instructions for hospital staff to use after labor.

Ten days before her due date, she went into labor. Ann’s labor went relatively uneventful and fast. She was able to fulfill her goal of not receiving medication. After less eight hours of labor, she delivered a healthy baby girl we will call Sophia.

One day after her delivery, Ann brought her newborn daughter home. During her first month, she breastfed the baby, and she seemed to be doing well.

However, a month after Sophia’s birth, her mother noticed that she was struggling to eat and lacked energy. The baby started sleeping more than usual. That evening Ann put the baby to bed.

An hour after she fell asleep, the baby woke up and vomited. In the middle of the night, Ann went to check on her daughter to change her diaper. When she went into the room, her daughter was limp and unresponsive. Immediately, the mother called for an ambulance.

Paramedics rushed Sophia to the hospital. Doctors gave her a dose of adrenaline due to a low heart rate and respiratory distress.

With her presentation of a low heart rate and difficulty breathing, doctors believed she had sepsis. She continued to struggle to breathe. Doctors noted her soft spot on her head was firm. Fearing that she had high intracranial pressure, they ventilated the brain to reduce the pressure.

Unable to stabilize her, she was airlifted to a hospital in Brisbane. When Sophia arrived at the Brisbane hospital, she immediately had a CT scan of her brain. The results of the scan were devastating for the parents.  Sophia suffered several bleeds within her skull.

One of the bleeds was widespread and had damaged the white and grey matter of her brain. She had hemorrhages behind both eyes, and her pupils were not reactive.

Labs drawn by doctors after her CT scan showed that Sophia’s blood wasn’t clotting. Her clotting factor was the worst a baby could have.  Her blood was so thin that she had become prone to bleeding throughout her body.

After receiving the devastating lab results, doctors took an emergency step to stop her bleeding. They gave her plasma and a dose of Vitamin K. By the evening, Sophia’s condition continued to get worse. The pressure inside her brain remained elevated, and her life started to slip away.

Early the next morning, doctors told Ann and her husband there was nothing left to help Sophia. The damage to her brain was too extensive, and they suggested removing her from life support. Heartbroken by the news, the parents agreed, and Sophia died moments later.

Following the death, the doctors requested an autopsy. They suspected that Sophia died from Vitamin K deficiency. However, they wanted confirmation from a medical examiner. Initially, Ann and her husband declined the autopsy. After some persuasion, they eventually agreed to allow the examination.

During the autopsy, the medical examiner found a swollen brain with extensive bleeding inside the skull. Sophia’s lungs had partially collapsed with blood inside. Sophia showed no signs of trauma or injury.

Her official cause of death was subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhages, due to late onset vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

After the coroner released the report, an inquest was opened into her death. While the death was tragic, the investigation determined the death was not suspicious.

Even though Sophia suffered a natural death, the inquest determined the death could have been prevented. The coroner said the mother’s refusal of vitamin k caused Sophia’s death.

Ann was very clear during her pregnancy she did not want her daughter to receive a Vitamin K injection after birth. Doctors followed her birth plan.

The coroner wrote,

“Vitamin K is essential for the synthesis of blood clotting factors. Vitamin K deficiency can lead to VKDB. Administration of vitamin K after birth all but eliminates VKDB. This is usually done by an intramuscular injection.

The Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) recommends that all newborn babies receive vitamin K after birth. This is because babies generally have a low level of vitamin K in their bodies. It is poorly transferred across the placenta; babies have low levels in cord blood and have limited liver reserves.

Human breast milk contains relatively low concentrations of vitamin K (1 – 2mg/L), whereas infant formula milks are supplemented with additional vitamin K to a minimum concentration of 30mg/L. Therefore, infants who are exclusively breast-fed are at risk of developing VKDB, unless supplementary vitamin K is administered.”

When a baby does not receive the injection, they can develop Vitamin K deficiency. Sophia developed late on-set VKD which happens between 8 days to six months after birth. In babies that develop VKD, 30-50% will develop bleeding in their brains. Of those that develop brain bleeds, 30% of them will die.

Ann’s choice to have a natural childbirth with no medications for her and Sophia proved tragic. Without mincing words, the coroner blamed Ann for refusing to the vitamin k injection. Ann put her personal and spiritual beliefs before the safety of her daughter.

Coroner Christine Clements finished her report by saying,

“The administration of vitamin K is a well established and safe prophylaxis known to reduce the risk of VKDB in newborn babies. The administration of this treatment remains within the parental consent.

The baby’s mother had a detailed labour plan and a considered position declining various medications and interventions in the birth process. This included a specific direction not to administer vitamin K to their baby.”

Vitamin K saves lives. Please do not skip this injection after your child is born.

For more information on Vitamin K visit the CDC.

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Monala

    Serious question: what did babies do before Vitamin K injections and commercial formulas were available? This is a different issue than the risk of being exposed to a dangerous virus — this is an inherent need that it seems like human babies lack. How did we then survive?

  • Lucreza Borgia

    They died

  • Knitting Cat Lady

    By having lots and lots of kids. If you had ~10 kids you were lucky if two made it to adulthood.

    People didn’t get attached to babies and young children. Parents started to get invested in their children once they reached age 5, because then they were out of the biggest danger zone.

    How did we then survive? Well, most of us didn’t.

  • 1 in 60 developed VKD

  • jhampl

    That is an excellent question and, no the answer is not babies died — not from vitamin K deficiency anyway.
    Labor and delivery nowadays are much more hygienic than in days past, when women would inevitably have a bowel movement and have fewer trained attendants at the ready to remove fecal matter and soiled linens.
    The bacteria that live in our intestines make vitamin K. Prior to the medicalization of birth, babies would standardly be exposed to fecal contamination, in a good way, by swallowing life-saving bacteria in mothers’ feces.
    Those bacteria would act as a culture for newborns’ intestines, make vitamin K, and act to block unhealthy bacteria from settling in as well.

  • rummager

    I am assuming that mother, if she had more children, consented to Vitamin K. Why do we allow those fools to sacrifice innocent children to new age vanity and militant ignorance?

  • jhampl

    We’ve gone overboard with respect for the autonomy of individuals’ sincerely held religious beliefs.

    Beneficence and justice are ethical principles too.

  • Jeff Levy

    She should be charged with murder, at least Involuntary manslaughter..

  • Ardent

    The human species survived and thrived with a pre-modern childhood mortality rate of 30-50% depending on the society and time period. Most babies have enough vitamin K stores to avoid hemorrhagic disease of the newborn and it is perfectly fine for the species’ survival if 1/100 or even 1/50 do not and die… small potatoes compared to the overall childhood mortality rate. Usually these “built in” biological problems that affect large #s of people have to do with competing biological needs that are in opposition to each other where the right balance is usually achieved but sometimes fails.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    What the hell religion has any problem with vitamin supplementation?

    That’s the whole irony in the Vit K refusal. These tend to be the exact same people who claim they want to use “natural approaches” for treating disease and load themselves up on worthless vitamin supplements. But here they have an actual natural cure, an effective vitamin supplement, and they still turn it down.

  • Ally

    Evolution doesn’t have to produce perfection. It just has to produce a system that usually doesn’t kill us before we reproduce. As Katie said, 1 in 60 babies died due to VKD before vitamin K shots became standard. That number is too high for individual babies and parents but not for the survival of the human species.

  • ValentineGecko

    Visit a cemetery section at least a hundred years old and notice all the little tombstones, some of them with little stone lambs. Birth date on so many of these is within a couple of years, months, or days of birth. Because there weren’t vitamin k shots, antibiotics, or vaccines. Or ventilators or blood transfusions or incubators or treatments for immature lungs sms jaundice. Women routinely were pregnant eight or ten times, but only four or five of these kids would make it to healthy adulthood. One or two more would suffer a lifetime of medical complications and end up reliant on the family for support.

    God bless modern medicine. I likely wouldn’t have survived one week on earth a hundred years ago.

  • persephone

    My many times great grandmother, mid 18th century American colonies had 14 recorded births. Those recorded births did not include miscarriages, still births, SIDS, or anything that might have killed babies in terms first few months; the births are not recorded until the babies were about 3 months old. Of those 14 only five made it to their teens. Three made it to their twenties. Two had children.

  • persephone