VIRUSMYTH HOMEPAGE


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 nurse.

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 reporters.

"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 authorities.

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,'' she said.


VIRUSMYTH HOMEPAGE