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On tape, for the brave

July 11, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

When Courtney Brooke Evans came into the world on May 16 this year, she was a 7-pound, 4.5-ounce, messy, crying bundle with a little dark brown fuzz on her head.

Years from now Courtney will be able to see that for herself and not just hear the tale of her mother Mellanie Evans' seven minutes of pushing her into the world at Washington County Hospital.

That's because her aunt, Shelley Lesher, captured the moment on videotape.

Courtney is Mellanie and Matthew Evans' third child and the third one whose birth is on tape.

The couple decided to have the births taped so they and their children - Courtney, Hunter and Caitlyn - would have a keepsake, said Mellanie Evans, 32, of Smithsburg.

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In mid-June, The Associated Press reported that Dr. John C. Nelson, an obstetrician and then president of the American Medical Association, stopped permitting his patients to have their children's births videotaped due to liability concerns.

The article also stated many doctors and hospitals across the nation were "clamping down" on the videotaping of childbirth.

Alicia Mitchell, spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association, said she wasn't aware of a specific legal case that led to doctors no longer permitting videotaping.

Tri-State area hospitals still allow births to be recorded, for the most part, hospital spokespeople said.

Mitchell advises parents who want to have their child's birth taped to notify their doctor about it in an earlier appointment with the doctor. Most hospitals allow physicians and patients to work out whether the birth can be taped.

Washington County Hospital patients have the hospital's permission to tape the event with the physician's approval, said Jody Bishop, clinical manager for The Family Birthing Center at the hospital.

Many parents choose to tape the birth and Bishop said she was not aware of any obstetricians at the hospital who outright ban cameras.

"We reserve the right to turn it off if the situation warrants it," Bishop said.

Starting in early 2004, City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., established guidelines for videotaping, said Melanie Riley, nurse manager for the obstetrics unit. The guidelines ban taping the actual birth.

Riley wrote the guidelines in response to the growing popularity of videotaping childbirths and for protection of patients' privacy and confidentiality.

Even if the mother-to-be wants the birth taped, it is not permitted, Riley said.

Sometimes women feel pressured to have the event taped, change their minds, or say they didn't know what they were doing because of the pain medication, she said.

Riley said liability concerns for the hospital and doctors were not the main focus of creating the guidelines, but wouldn't say it had nothing to do with them.

What usually can be taped is what happens before and after the birth. Taping cannot resume until the umbilical cord has been cut, the baby cleaned up and the mother covered up, Riley said.

Videotaping also isn't allowed during invasive procedures, according to a copy of the "Guidelines for Documenting Your Special Delivery" from The Birthing Center at City Hospital.

The guidelines also state the camera must be battery operated so there are no cords and that tripods or light sources that aren't contained within the camera are prohibited.

Jefferson Memorial Hospital in West Virginia, Waynesboro Hospital and Chambersburg Hospital in Pennsylvania, and Frederick Memorial Hospital in Frederick, Md., all permit the parents to have the birth videotaped with the physician's approval, spokespeople said.

Frederick Memorial officials recently reviewed the policy and decided to continue to allow the taping, said Harry Grandinett, director of marketing and communications. The hospital reserves the right to refuse permission based on circumstances, he said.

The Evanses had their children delivered by two different doctors - Dr. Andrew Oh and Dr. George Manger, both of whom were OK with the taping, Mellanie Evans said.

On July 3, the Evanses' eldest child, Caitlyn, turned 6 and watched her birth tape. Because the camera was on a tripod, the image gets fuzzy but can be paused or put in slow motion to see, from an angle, Caitlyn emerge, her mother said.

"We've been letting her watch certain areas," she said. "She was excited, smiled."

Evans' two sisters also had the births of their children taped, Lesher said.

Lesher, 36, of Smithsburg, said her children, Justin, 6, and Joshua, 12, have watched their birth tapes.

Their reaction: "'Mom, you look like you're in a lot of pain,'" Lesher said.

Lesher said the tape isn't graphic because it was taped at an angle above so only her leg is visible. What's seen is the doctor placing the baby on her stomach.

"(My children are) able to see it and I feel comfortable about it and they feel comfortable about it," she said.

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