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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Dead' baby sparks legal row

'Dead' baby sparks legal row

Photo by: PHOTOs SUPPLIED
Im Samnang fights for life (left) at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in Phnom Penh on Wednesday after being presumed dead two days before when the 0.9-kilogram boy was born prematurely and wrapped as if dead (right). The newborn’s grandmother discovered he was still alive.

A CLINIC has been accused of attempted infanticide after medical staff mistakenly declared - on two separate occasions - that a premature baby had died.

The error was discovered by the newborn's father and grandmother, who went to check on the "body" only to discover, each time, that the child was still breathing.

Speaking to the Post on Wednesday, the boy's father said he took his wife, who was six months pregnant, to Soriya Clinic in Phnom Penh's Phsar Thmei 1 commune on Monday when she complained of abdominal pains.

Im Vannarith, from Mitthapheap commune in Prampi Makara district, said his wife - whose name he did not want to give - gave birth to a son about two hours after arriving at the clinic. "About 30 minutes later, the owner of the clinic, Dr Hy Soryaphea, told my mother that my baby was dead," he said. "We were devastated."

While his wife was in recovery in a separate room at the clinic, Im Vannarith went to see his son, Im Samnang, and was shocked to see that the child's chest was still moving. "I saw my baby was still breathing, so I asked the doctor to send him to hospital," he said.

The boy was then placed in a car along with his father, grandmother and a nurse, who had been instructed by the doctor to take the child to Kantha Bopha Hospital, Im Vannarith said. Halfway to the hospital, however, the nurse instructed the car to turn around and return to the clinic, insisting the boy was dead.

"Back at the clinic, they put a terrycloth towel around my son and laid him out on a table in the operating room," Im Vannarith told the Post. "There was a black plastic bag right next to him, and I was afraid that was what they were going to put his body in." Shortly afterwards, the child's grandmother went to check on the body of her grandson - and found the boy was breathing again.

"I demanded again that he be taken to hospital," Im Vannarith said, "but the doctor told me again that my baby was dying and would be dead any minute. I was furious that she showed so little respect for his life." The doctor then agreed to send Im Samnang to the hospital, where the delay in admitting him had aggravated his condition, staff said.

Dr Beat Richner, director of Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital, where Im Samnang is still in intensive care, told the Post that the infant remains in a critical condition. "He only weighs 0.9 kilograms," he said. "It is possible to save a baby this small, but those first few hours were crucial. The child arrived at our hospital very late." Although Im Samnang is now receiving all treatment possible, he said, all they can do is hope.

Im Vannarith, who hasn't told his wife about the incident for fear of jeopardising her recovery, is now threatening legal action against the clinic. "I have taken my wife out of the clinic because I have lost all confidence in it," he said.

His lawyer, Kav Soupha, confirmed to the Post on Wednesday that he is preparing a case.

The clinic has denied any wrongdoing. Dr Hy Soryaphea was unavailable for comment, but Hy Nary, one of her assistants, confirmed that Im Samnang was born at the clinic. "We saw him stop breathing after he was born," she told the Post. "We tried to help him."

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