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Posted by on Jun 27, 2009 in Health | 49 comments

Exceptional Circumstances: A Canadian Couple and Their Premature Baby, Currently Receiving Care in the U.S., Must Be Reunited ASAP

A sad, troubling, rage-inducing story from The Canadian Press:

A critically-ill premature-born baby from Hamilton is all alone in a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital after she was turned away for treatment at local facility and transferred across the border without her parents, who don’t have passports.

Ava Stinson was born Thursday at St. Joseph’s Hospital, 14 weeks premature.

A provincewide search for an open neonatal intensive care unit bed came up empty, leaving no choice but to send the two pound, four ounce baby to Buffalo.

Her parents Natalie Paquette and Richard Stinson couldn’t follow their child because as of June 1, a passport is required to cross the border into the United States.

They’re having to approve medical procedures over the phone and are terrified something will happen to their baby before they get there.

The Canadian Consulate in Buffalo is providing advice and guidance to the first-time parents, and their local MP, New Democrat David Christopherson, is working to arrange emergency passports.

But that will take until at least Monday afternoon and the situation is complicated by the fact the baby’s dad has a criminal record.

“I just want to be with her,” said Paquette.

“She only knows my heartbeat, my voice and her daddy’s voice. It’s all I can think about. I feel so helpless.”

I won’t get into the relative merits of the American and Canadian health-care systems here. Suffice it to say that there obviously need to be more neo-natal intensive care unit beds up here. Thankfully — and this doesn’t mean that the American system is better (after all, at least the couple and their baby are guaranteed care up here, thanks to our public system, even if it’s not perfect) — there was an opening south of the border.

That aside — now that the baby is in Buffalo — isn’t this a clear case where the law must allow for an exception? No, the parents don’t have passports, which are now needed (a rule that recently came into effect), and, yes, the father has a criminal record (I don’t know for what, but I doubt he’s a threat to American society), but surely the demands of the moment, the exceptional circumstances of this individual case (and the need for the parents to be with their baby at this difficult time, with so much uncertain) trump all other considerations, including the unfeeling application of the law.

It is likely, I suppose, that the couple will get their emergency passports. But will the U.S. then let them in? And will they get there in time, should the baby take a turn for the worse?

This story is simply heartbreaking. The powers-that-be on both sides of the border ought to work something out, quickly, that makes this happen, passports or no passports, criminal record or no criminal record.

This family must be reunited. Now.

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)