JUDGE REFUSES TO GIVE BABY BACK TO HIV MOTHER WHO WANTS TO BREAST FEED
By Amalie Young
Associated Press 20 April 1999
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A judge refused Tuesday
to give up state control of a
baby born to an HIV-infected mother who
wants to breast feed, saying the risk of
spreading the deadly virus left the state no
choice but to step in.
"The parents may choose to run that risk
with the child, but the court may
second-guess that decision,'' Juvenile Court
Judge Maurice Merten said after a
three-day hearing on the custody of
4-month-old Felix Tyson. So far, Felix has
tested negative for HIV.
Kathleen Tyson and her husband, David, lost
legal custody of their son when he
was days old because of the decision to
Although the state has legal custody of
Felix, he is allowed to live with his parents
and his 10-year-old sister. About once a
week, a caseworker from Oregon's Office
for Services to Children and Families makes
a visit to the Tyson home to ensure the
state's will is being carried out and that
the baby is being bottle fed.
Much of their case to win him back focused
on their belief that HIV doesn't cause
AIDS and that the deadly virus cannot be
spread by breast milk.
A string of medical experts testified for
the state, however, that milk from an
HIV-infected mother carries the highest risk
of transmitting the virus — even more
than sexual intercourse.
After the decision, the Tysons hustled
quickly out of court without talking to
"We're disappointed,'' Hilary Billings, the
attorney for Mrs. Tyson. "I just don't think
that the judge was willing to buck the
tremendous tide of medical opinion.''
Mrs. Tyson, who was diagnosed with HIV
during prenatal screening, began nursing
Felix in the hospital and a doctor called in
Testifying as the final witness, Mrs. Tyson
told the judge her decision to breast feed
was "all about what I want for my child.''
"I love my son more than anything in the
world and that I want the best for him,''