Concern Over Hepatitis C Transmission Through Breastfeeding Raised in Ohio Child Custody Battle
A Franklin County, Ohio, magistrate on Tuesday placed the newborn son of a woman with hepatitis C in temporary foster care after Franklin County Children Services filed a complaint stating that she had endangered her child by breastfeeding him and by twice leaving him "unattended on a hospital bed," the Columbus Dispatch reports. According to court records, Nichole Davison was "repeatedly warned" by staff members at Mount Carmel West hospital not to breastfeed her son because hepatitis C is "easily transmitted and could be fatal." Phil Hart, a representative for Children Services, said, "As of right now, the information we have from the doctors here in Columbus, Ohio, is that this is not a safe situation" (Doulin, Columbus Dispatch, 8/15). But Domestic Relations Magistrate Nadine Van Dyke said she was focusing on a domestic violence arrest warrant issued recently for Davison in Colorado -- not the breastfeeding issue -- when she ordered the infant to remain in county custody. Children Services also said that the breastfeeding issue was not the "sole concern about Davison's parenting skills," as Hart noted that Davison has lost permanent custody of two other children in Colorado. However, Davison's attorney Michael Morrissey countered that the Colorado warrant, of which Davison said that she was not aware, "has nothing to do" with her parenting skills. He said, "What they have done in this case is they have taken the baby away for one reason and one reason only -- because she was breastfeeding the child" (Doulin, Columbus Dispatch, 8/16). According to Morrissey, "There is no documented case of hepatitis C being transmitted through breastfeeding," adding that Davison's doctors had approved her decision to breastfeed. According to the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases, hepatitis C cannot be spread through breastfeeding. Davison's son has not tested positive for the disease, but court records say that it could take up to one year before the disease would appear in the test (Columbus Dispatch, 8/15). Another hearing in the case has been set for Aug. 27 (Columbus Dispatch, 8/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.