Baby Steffen in happier times, before DCS and too many surgeries at Vanderbilt. Photo provided by family.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

A Tennessee family is crying out for justice. When doctors, social workers, and lawyers pushed last spring to have Baby Steffen taken off of life support, his family and their supporters pleaded for him to be given a chance to live. They could not understand why there was such a concerted effort to end Baby Steffen’s life. It made no sense to them.

Now, the results of a private autopsy are back, and the reasons seem crystal clear to the family. According to Baby Steffen’s grandmother, Lisa Rivenburg:

It’s open and shut malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death.

They have suspected all along that somebody was covering something up. Now, they believe they have the evidence they need to pursue a lawsuit. They are in need of an attorney willing and able to take on the case.

Medically Kidnapped Over Missed Doctor Appointments

Baby Steffen was taken from his parents, Patricia Tornberg and Steffen Rivenburg, Sr., on February 2, 2017. His sister Annalise was seized the same day.

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) alleged abuse because the parents had missed a total of 3 doctors appointments for Baby Steffen due to car problems. Each appointment was rescheduled. None were urgent.

Steffen was born with Down Syndrome and congenital heart defects, including Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD), and pulmonary stenosis. By 3 months of age, Tetrology of Fallot was suspected but not yet diagnosed. Doctors told his parents that he would likely require heart surgery at 6 months of age. (Note: some children outgrow these heart defects and no longer require surgery.)

Despite his condition, the family says he was thriving and doing well at home with his parents and big sister, Annalise, who was in first grade.

On the day Baby Steffen was taken, he was with his parents at one of the make-up doctor appointments. He was allegedly not sick. However, the children were placed with strangers who wanted to adopt children.

Previously Stable, Baby Declines Rapidly in State Custody

Both siblings were allegedly given multiple vaccines the day after they were taken from their family.

By the end of their second week in foster care, Baby Steffen became very ill with metapneumovirus, which he contracted while in state custody. The illness was hard on his already fragile heart.

Doctors at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt performed the first heart surgery on Baby Steffen in late February, followed shortly after by 2 additional heart surgeries and other procedures, which resulted in him being placed on life support.

State Players Argue for His Death

By the end of May, doctors at Vanderbilt sought court orders to remove the baby from life support, even though the family says he showed clear signs that he was not brain dead.

Our readers responded quickly to his story, pleading with the hospital and lawmakers to give the baby a chance to live.

See original story and follow up here:

Medically Kidnapped Baby Scheduled for Execution TODAY!

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

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

Other doctors and hospitals were willing to have him transferred and evaluate him to see if there was any hope to save his life.

All of the cries from the public as well as the requests from other medical professionals apparently fell on deaf ears. The family filed motions in court, but they were ignored.

It seemed to the family that the doctors, social workers, attorneys, and even the judge were determined that nothing was going to stop the predetermined path to ending Baby Steffen’s life. Attorneys argued that it would be “in Steffen’s best interests” to remove him from life support.


Baby Steffen on life support Monday night, May 29, 2017. Photo provided by the family.

The family and thousands of supporters all over the world were confused and horrified that there seemed to be no way to stop them.

Euthanized at Vanderbilt

On June 8, 2017, the family’s opponents were successful in blocking every attempt to give Baby Steffen any more time to live. As the family was allegedly threatened by police for filming Baby Steffen’s last moments in the hospital, Baby Steffen was removed from life support.

For a brief moment, the family felt hope. Baby Steffen’s little heart beat on its own and he was breathing on his own. Their hope was short-lived. A doctor reportedly insisted on giving the baby a shot “to relax him.” The shot contained propofol – the “Michael Jackson drug,” a drug that causes people not to breathe.

Baby Steffen died in his devastated mother’s arms.


Baby Steffen’s mother fought for his life till the very end. Source: Rivenburg family.


The family has been asking ever since his death, “Why?”

Since the day that doctors began insisting that Baby Steffen was not going to live, grandmother Lisa Rivenburg and his parents Trish and Steffen have wanted to know what was going on.

They have maintained that there was “something fishy.” They have always believed that he should not have died, and that something happened in that hospital that caused his decline and the apparent rush to destroy evidence – his tiny body.


Family Seeks Answers on Baby’s Death – Threatened Arrest for Trying to Record Last Moments of Life

Almost miraculously, they were able to get his body away from Vanderbilt hospital and take him to a secure location. With the help of Mattie Shay Mitchell, her non-profit Liam Changed the World Inc., and Health Impact News readers, the family was able to raise the money for a private autopsy, which they hoped, and believed, would provide much-needed answers.

They were correct.

Autopsy Shows “Important Findings”

The specific findings of the autopsy cannot be released at this time, because Baby Steffen’s family has every intention of filing a lawsuit. However, they report that the results are shocking.

They asked us not to release the name of the private, licensed medical examiner who performed the autopsy, but he is prepared to testify to his findings in court.

Just before he sent the results to the family, he told Lisa Rivenburg that the findings were “important, especially to your future lawyers.”

Lisa sought to clarify in a text message:

So they messed up as we thought all along.

The medical examiner responded:

Yes. There are important findings that I will go over with you in detail.

The family is searching now for an attorney to take their case to file a lawsuit. Lisa Rivenburg spoke with an attorney recently who told her that he cannot handle the case. He reportedly agreed that there is malpractice and negligence, as well as “mental anguish.”


Heartbroken, Annalise grieved the loss of Baby Steffen with their mother. Photo Source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.

Because the family has very limited financial resources, they need an attorney who will take the case on a contingency. They have the evidence that they need to show that Baby Steffen should not have died.

The questions now are:

  • How much did DCS social workers and attorneys know about what was happening with Baby Steffen’s medical condition, and when did they know it?
  • Will doctors at Vanderbilt and the DCS social workers be held accountable?
  • When will Annalise come home?

Baby Steffen’s 7-Year-Old Sister Still Not Home

Baby Steffen’s sister Annalise is still not home. DCS removed her from the foster parents with whom she lived when her brother was alive, but she is still not with any of her family.

DCS is in the process of “transitioning” her back home.

As most families dealing with Child Protective Services know, CPS often takes children in a moment, but they usually insist on a transition or reunification process that can take many months to complete.

The argument is typically something along the lines of helping the children to adapt to being back home after being “stable” in foster care, a concern that is noticeably missing from virtually every child removal from their family that has ever taken place.

Parents Trish and Steffen reportedly continue to comply with every requirement, many of which they have completed several times over. They are both working. Though Steffen Sr.’s mother Lisa Rivenburg has plenty of room for them to live with her, DCS insists that they have their own place.

As soon as they secure that, they are very hopeful that Annalise will be home with them soon.

How You Can Help

If there is an attorney willing to step in and help the family to file a lawsuit, the Rivenburg family wants their contact information. Supporters have set up a Facebook page for the family called Reunite the Rivenburgs.

Steffen FB page

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may be reached at (615) 741-2001, or contacted here. Governor Haslam is also on Facebook.

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

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

Other coverage of the family’s continuing story:

Judge Who Ordered Baby Steffen to be Removed from Life Support Orders Sister be Placed for Adoption

Tennessee Family Wants Daughter and Sister of Deceased Baby Steffen to Come Home

Tennessee Family Buries Baby Steffen as Social Workers Stop Photos – Sister Still in Foster Care

Tennessee Parents of Baby Steffen Jailed While Appearing in Court and Questioning Drug Test

Other Medical Kidnap stories involving Vanderbilt Hospital:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disabled Father Denied by State of Tennessee to Father his Own Child

See more about Child Abuse Specialists:

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