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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Baby that 'came back to life' minutes before burial dies in mother's arms

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

Doctors pronounced the death of a baby girl on Tuesday morning who survived six hours in a hospital morgue refrigerator after being declared stillborn on Monday.

Early Monday morning, a 26-year-old woman in her 23rd week of pregnancy arrived at the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya suffering from severe pains and hemorrhage.

A preliminary examination found that the fetus had no pulse, and the woman was rushed to the operating room to have the fetus removed. At the end of the procedure, a baby girl weighing 610 grams was retrieved.

Showing no signs of life, she was pronounced dead by a senior doctor and taken to the morgue freezer. Hours later, when she was taken out to be prepared for burial, he mother noticed she was moving. She was rushed to the hospital's intensive care department and stayed there until her death.

The baby's father, Ali Majdub, had harsh criticism for the conduct of the hospital, telling Haaretz "we have many misgivings about the way the hospital handled the case."

"In my opinion, they were negligent in the speed with which they pronounced my daughter's death. It is curious how a 600-gram child, who is the size of the palm of my hand, comes back to life by herself," he said.

The father described how his wife realized the child was alive after asking to see her dead daughter one last time.

"When I came to the morgue to collect her, her body was wrapped up," he continued. "Then my wife, out of an inexplicable impulse, asked to see her again. At first, I didn't want to break her heart, but then I went up. When I got there, she realized she was moving."

Hospital director Dr. Massad Barhoum said the baby was breathing on her own. But he said her chances of survival are very, very slim because she was prematurely born in the 23rd week.

"There was one miracle, and we're hoping for another one," he said.

Asked whether negligence was involved, hospital deputy director Dr. Moshe Daniel said that the doctors were not too hasty in pronouncing the baby dead.

"It was a senior doctor. We passed all the findings to the Health Ministry, and they can launch an investigation if they deem appropriate," he said.

"From the start, the chances of survival were slim," he said after the baby was pronounced dead on Tuesday. It was later decided on Monday that an external investigative committee would be formed to look into the matter.

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