Father Distraught By Death Of His 'Two-Headed' Baby

(18 March) The father of the baby who was born with two heads has demanded a formal investigation into her death.

The baby girl passed away during the evening of 16 March at Buddhasothorn Hospital in Chonburi province, several days after she was born.

According to the doctors, the baby suffered from severe lung damage and heart failure. Dr. Prasit Tangmana, director of Buddhasothorn Hospital, said the hospital will compensate her family in accordance with hospital regulations.

But her father, Mr. Pachoen Passorn, said he will appeal the Medical Council of Thailand to set up a special committee to investigate the child’s death and the hospital's procedure in handling her case prior to her demise.

Mr. Pachoen said he took his wife, Ms. Viengfai Kittawong, for an ultrasound check at Plaengyao Hospital some months ago and was informed by doctors that the baby appeared to have two attached heads and other defects in her organs.

Alarmed by the diagnosis, Mr. Pachoen said he later took his wife to Buddhasothorn Hospital for a second ultrasound check to ascertain the baby's condition. However, staff at Buddhasothorn Hospital reportedly assured Mr. Pachoen that the baby was in a good condition, and that Ms. Viengfai was in fact expecting a pair of identical twins.

Mr. Pachoen also claimed that he went on to request yet another ultrasound check at a third hospital, but medical workers at Buddhasothorn, a public hospital, refused his request.

He added that he will not take the baby's body for a religious cremation ceremony until the matter has been resolved.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Dr. Prasit, the hospital director, said ultrasound scans are not always 100% reliable as the images are often unclear. In the case of Mr. Pachoen's baby, Dr. Prasit said, the medical workers were misled into determining the girl as a pair of twins due to two sets of spinal columns showing on the ultrasound images.

He also promised an investigation into why the hospital staff had refused to transfer Ms. Viengfai to a third hospital for further check-up, but insisted that the baby's condition was beyond the ability of his doctors to remedy.

"The defects were certainly caused by genetic mutation, and not caused by [our] medical operations," Dr. Prasit told reporters, adding that the chance of survival for the baby had always been slim, since it is extremely difficult to separate toddlers born with two heads, "We did everything we could" he said.

The doctor estimated that this particular type of birth defects is so rare that only one case occurs per 250,000 births.

 Speaking next to Mr. Prasit at the press conference, Dr. Visit Tangnapakorn, regional inspector of the Ministry of Public Health, confirmed that the baby's death was not the fault of the hospital doctors.

"I genuinely feel sorry about this, but it was really beyond anyone's ability," Dr. Visit said.

Dr. Somsak Lohlekha, chairman of the Medical Council of Thailand, voiced similar comments. "The abnormality of newborn babies is mostly caused by genetics," Dr. Somsak said, "Blaming the doctors for the baby's death would really demoralise the doctors".

Officials at the Ministry of Public Health said they have already received complaint from Mr. Pachoen, urging the authorities to inspect the quality and service standard of Buddhasothorn Hospital. The case is pending further action by the Office of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the official said.