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Mother with HIV allowed to keep baby after vowing not to breastfeed
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)--An HIV-infected woman who wants to breastfeed her baby agreed to use a bottle and has been allowed to keep the boy, though he remains under state control.
Kathleen Tyson and her husband, David, have agreed to bottle feed their son and will not defy the judge's decision, Mrs. Tyson's attorney said after Tuesday's ruling.
"Both Kathleen and David have a lot of integrity," Hilary Billings said. "They gave their word a long time ago."
The Tysons lost legal custody of their 4-month-old son, Felix, when he was days old because of their decision to nurse.
Much of their case to win him back focused on their unorthodox beliefs, part of the national "Rethinking AIDS" movement, that HIV doesn't cause AIDS and that the deadly virus can't 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 higher than sexual intercourse.
"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 the three-day hearing.
The couple's case focused on clinical theories about how HIV doesn't really cause AIDS, and how the risk of an HIV-infected mother's breast milk is minimal.
"If a child was sitting on the hood of a car driving at 100 mph, everyone would try to stop that car," Bernadette Healy, an attorney for the state, told the judge in her closing arguments.
Added Robert Nagler, the state lawyer representing Felix: "The mother has demonstrated ... that's she's not about to make the simple sacrifice of not breastfeeding. The threat to Felix is immense."
Mrs. Tyson, who was diagnosed with HIV during prenatal screening, began nursing Felix in the hospital and a doctor called in authorities. So far, Felix has tested negative for HIV.
Testifying as the final witness, Mrs. Tyson told the judge her decision to breastfeed 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. "There is a morass of information out there and I have tried to make the best judgment that I can."
After the decision, the Tysons quickly left court without talking to reporters.
"We're disappointed," said Billings. "I just don't think that the judge was willing to buck the tremendous tide of medical opinion."
Although the state has legal custody of Felix, he is allowed to live with his parents and 10-year-old sister. A caseworker from Oregon's Office for Services to Children and Families visits about once a week to ensure he is being bottle-fed.