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Local expert weighs in on family’s tainted breast milk lawsuit
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Friday, January 18, 2013 11:55AM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 18, 2013 1:59PM MST
While a multi-million dollar lawsuit by an Edmonton family is placing the way hospitals handle bottled breast milk under the microscope, an expert in the field is reassuring parents that the chances a child will contract the virus that way are slim to none.
On Thursday, CTV News reported the Fleming family – Celeste, Jeffrey and their now-two-year-old son Kade Fleming had filed a lawsuit against Alberta Health Services, certain doctors and a nurse at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and a pediatrician, after Kade was fed breast milk from another mother while in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit when he was less than two weeks old.
Tests later revealed the other woman had Hepatitis C – but it took nearly a year after the error was made before the family received confirmation that Kade did not become infected with the virus.
A local lactation expert, who is also president of the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton, said the family should not have had to wait as long as they did to find out the results of Kade’s tests – but the overall chance he could have become infected from a single feeding is extremely low.
“It’s a concern that a mother’s milk doesn’t get given to her own baby, it gets given to a different baby, there’s protocols that need to be put in place to fix that,” Kirsten Goa said. “They should have been reassured right away that Hepatitis C, despite the fact that one of these mothers had that does not transmit through breast milk.”
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Carol Robinson, said Thursday that the problems the family encountered were not isolated – and cited a Health Quality Council report published on March 2010 that outlined a number of similar incidents in Edmonton and Calgary hospitals.
The HQCA went on to say in the report that recommendations from earlier studies had not been prioritized, and babies were still facing the risk of being exposed to pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
“The policies were not implemented, or if they were implemented they were not followed,” Robinson said Thursday.
The family is seeking punitive damages in excess of $3 million dollars – and claim as a result of the error and the following delay the couple suffered ‘nervous shock’.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The defendants named in the lawsuit have 30 days from the date of filing to respond.
With files from Laura Tupper
Jeffrey, Celeste and Kade Fleming are shown in an undated family portrait. Supplied.