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Civil Rights Abuse? Judge Only Gives Parents 24 Hours to Find Doctor Before Baby is Removed from Life Support

Steffen and mother

Steffen and his mother Patricia, who isn’t ready to say, “Good-bye.” Photo provided by the family.

UPDATE 4 – 6/8/2017

Baby Steffen has “gone to Jesus,” according to a text we received from a family member. They ask that they be given some privacy so that the family can grieve.

Supporters who went to Vanderbilt hospital to pray report that they saw the family being escorted out of the hospital under armed guard.

The prayer vigil had to be moved outside of the hospital after the group was told by hospital staff that they were not permitted to pray in the hospital chapel as a group.

This story is not over yet.

Baby Steffen’s big sister Annalise remains in foster care, away from her family members who love her and plan to continue to fight to bring her back home.

UPDATE 3 – 6/8/2017

Vanderbilt Hospital has informed the family that they intend to pull the plug on Baby Steffen at 2:30 pm Central Time. His parents and grandmother are en route from the courthouse to the hospital.

Health Impact News spoke with one of Steffen Rivenburg Sr.’s sisters who reported that, to the family’s knowledge, Vanderbilt doctors did not respond to any of the other doctors or hospitals who were willing to offer a second opinion, even though Dr. Harold Andrew Smith of Vanderbilt agreed with Judge Wayne Shelton on Monday to allow the family the opportunity to get a second opinion about Baby Steffen’s condition. The ball was in Vanderbilt’s court, and they reportedly let it drop.

Steffen Sr.’s sister said:

We’re all thinking that they’re trying to hide something.

Supporters are continuing a prayer vigil at the hospital. The family continues to believe God for a miracle, and are praying for God to heal little Steffen. They remain hopeful that, when doctors take Baby Steffen off of the ECMO machine, his heart will beat adequately and that he will breathe.

The motion to appeal has still not been heard.

UPDATE 2 – 6/8/2017

From the Reunite the Rivenburg Facebook page:

Breaking news! Motion to stay denied. Judge Wayne Shelton doesn’t seem to care about the parent’s civil rights. Or the life of this child. Please keep praying. And calling Vanderbilt and governor Bill Haslam [1]. If Vanderbilt kills this child today, we will not stop fighting until we have Wayne Shelton’s judgeship and justice for the Rivenburg family!

The motion to appeal has not been heard yet.

UPDATE 1 – 6/8/2017

Vanderbilt Hospital reportedly intends to remove Baby Stephen from life support at 1 pm central time today. Supporters are currently meeting at the hospital for a peaceful prayer vigil, and they are praying for a miracle. See event here [2].

Late yesterday, the family filed an appeal as well as a motion to stay, or stop, the judge’s ruling from Monday which gave the hospital, not the parents, the right to decide the baby’s fate. Reportedly, the motion to stay will be heard this morning in an emergency hearing with Judge Shelton. According to the Reunite the Rivenburgs [3] Facebook page:

BREAKING NEWS!!! The entire family, DCS, and all attorneys have been called to court IMMEDIATELY!! Please send prayers!!

The family has been in contact with numerous doctors and hospitals that are reportedly willing to look at the baby’s case, and the family has given contact information to Vanderbilt, who would need to send over records for the other doctors. There has been no word yet whether Vanderbilt doctors have responded to them.

Civil Rights Abuse? Judge Only Gives Parents 24 Hours to Find Doctor Before Baby is Removed from Life Support

by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff

After a long day in court Monday June 5th, the Rivenburg family did not get the news they wanted to hear about Baby Steffen.

Last week, a judge approved a temporary injunction to keep the 7 month old baby from being taken off life support.

On Monday afternoon, Judge Wayne Shelton ruled that Baby Steffen’s mother does not have the right to make the decision of whether or not to take him off of life support, and he denied the request to extend the injunction.

The family has a short 24 hour, up to 48 hour, window to find a pediatric cardiologist in the South willing to testify that the baby is eligible for a heart transplant and would survive it.

Unless they find such an expert, Vanderbilt doctors, not the parents, will decide when to take Baby Steffen off of the life support machine that is keeping him alive at this time.

See original story and follow up:

Medically Kidnapped Baby Scheduled for Execution TODAY! [4]

Baby Scheduled to go Off Life Support Responding to Family – Rally and Court Date on Monday Morning [5]

The family is shocked and devastated. No one in the family or in their close circle of friends and supporters expected this verdict. They told Health Impact News that they fully expected that the judge would rule to give the baby a chance to live.

Some family members told us that they are praying for a miracle, and just want Steffen to have more time to heal from the infection and multiple heart surgeries that doctors performed in a short period of time.

While supporters and extended family rallied and prayed outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, the judge heard testimony from social workers, the GAL, and a doctor from the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, as well as the parents and grandmother.

Steffen rally

Supporters rallied and prayed outside the courthouse. Photo provided by Lydia Hubbell.

Should Only Medical Factors be Considered in Timing to End Life?

Dr. Harold Andrew Smith reportedly told the judge that Baby Steffen “can be aroused,” but that he has no chance of surviving a heart transplant. This, despite the fact that the baby is responsive and alert when he is allowed to come out of heavy sedation. (See video [6].)

A child’s Guardian ad litem (GAL) is supposed to represent “the best interest of the child” in the recommendations to the judge. Baby Steffen’s GAL reportedly suggested that the people involved in his life needed to consider his “quality of life.” Based on her assessment of such, she recommended that he be removed from life support.

If the family is not able to provide an expert quickly, then the final decision as to Baby’s Steffen’s fate will now be allowed to be made by Vanderbilt doctors. Even if the parents refuse to consent to their son being taken off the machine, the judge’s ruling means that doctors can override their decision.

Judge Shelton’s game changing ruling means that the doctors have been awarded the right to decide when the baby’s life ends.

Based on the evidence of the baby’s cognizance and intentional responses, the family argues that taking him off of life support amounts to murder. They understand that, unless there is a miracle or a heart transplant, Baby Steffen likely does not have long to live, but they want the timing to be God’s decision, not that of Vanderbilt doctors.

Steffen eyes open2 [7]

Baby Steffen is fighting for his life, and his family is not ready to give up on him. Photo screenshot from video taken 6/3 by Lisa Rivenburg.

Are Civil Rights Issues Being Considered?

Perhaps lost in all the medical discussions about Baby Steffen’s welfare are the civil rights issues in this case, which makes this case different than strictly a medical case where only medical facts should be considered.

According to the family, there were never any legal reasons for the State of Tennessee, through DCS, to take Baby Steffen away from them. The child was not sick or in imminent danger when he was removed from the custody of his family.

All of the medical problems that led to multiple surgeries allegedly happened while the child was in foster care, under the custody of the state.

WSMV Channel 4 [8] of Nashville reports that Vanderbilt released a statement about the judge’s decision:

We are gratified that the Court recognized that the medical professionals on the treatment team should be allowed to make the decisions that they believe, in their professional clinical judgment, are in this child’s best interests. It has been and has remains [sic] our desire to do so in collaboration with the child’s parents.

The parents don’t feel collaborated with. They are broken-hearted by the decision, and they remain skeptical of the decision-making responsibility being left with the very doctors who admitted to them that they “messed up.” They are quick to point out that their baby was not sick when he went into DCS custody. He had congenital heart defects, but there were no immediate problems, and no infection.

Several family members and supporters have suggested that Vanderbilt is trying to cover something up by “pulling the plug” on Steffen. There were many questions outside the courtroom concerning the motives of DCS and the hospital for their actions, considering the facts that the baby was not sick when he was taken from his family, and that doctors reportedly apologized recently to the family, saying that they had “messed up” by doing so many surgeries so closely together.

Given the civil rights implications here, with potential civil rights abuse against the baby and his family by DCS and Vanderbilt hospital, was the appropriate action made to remove life support when the parents were notified of such action the day before this action was to occur, on Memorial Day, a holiday when no court was in session to hear an appeal?

As we reported in an update on our original story [4] last Tuesday, a family member present in the room reported that the hospital:

“clamped” the machine, but he didn’t do well, so they hooked him back up.

During the time this was going on, the parents were hastily trying to get a court order to stop the hospital from taking him off of life support, and were only able to do so in the afternoon that day.

If indeed Baby Steffen is dying through no fault or action of the parents, but as a result of civil rights abuse by both Tennessee DCS and Vanderbilt Hospital, is the judge making the right decision to only give the parents 24 hours notice to try and find their own doctor who might be willing to do a heart transplant?

How You Can Help

Supporters have set up a Facebook page for the family called Reunite the Rivenburgs [9].

Steffen FB page

Baby Steffen’s big sister Annalise also remains in foster care. The family’s next hearing on their case is scheduled for June 19. They plan to appeal Judge Shelton’s ruling.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may be reached at (615) 741-2001, or contacted here [10], to ask that life support be continued for Steffen Rivenburg Jr., to give him a chance to live. Governor Haslam is also on Facebook [11].

The Senator for their district is Dr. Mark Green. He may be reached at (615) 741-2374, or contacted here [12].

Their state Representative is Representative Joe Pitts. He may be reached at (615) 741-2043, or contacted here [13].

The DCS main office number is (615) 741-9701. Supervisor Heather Wyatt’s office phone is (931) 503-3253.

To reach the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, call this public, non emergency number:

Patient Relations: (615) 322-6154

For assistance, non-medical questions or complaints. This line is open every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you are calling outside of these hours, listen to the recorded message carefully. Press zero for the Vanderbilt operator and request the Children’s Hospital Administrator on call.

Other Medical Kidnap stories involving Vanderbilt Hospital:

Tennessee Mom Gives Birth to Premature Twins 3 Times – Surviving Babies Medically Kidnapped for Research? [14]

Kentucky Family Falsely Accused of Child Abuse – Children Medically Kidnapped to Cover Corruption [15]

1-Hour Old Newborn Baby Kidnapped at Kentucky Hospital because Parents Refused to Take Parenting Classes [16]

Baby Found with Broken Bones – Parents Assumed Guilty of Abuse and Lose Custody [17]

Tennessee Children with Brittle Bones Suffer in State Care as Mom Charged with SBS [18]

Kentucky Baby Medically Kidnapped Along with Siblings and Forced on to Formula [19]

Kentucky Family Falsely Accused of Child Abuse – Children Medically Kidnapped to Cover Corruption [15]

Disabled Father Denied by State of Tennessee to Father his Own Child [20]

See more about Child Abuse Specialists:

Are New Pediatric “Child Abuse Specialists” Causing an Increase in Medical Kidnappings? [21]

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