x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Parents who abandoned 5-month-old may be prosecuted, police say

Police are looking into whether they can charge the parents of a five-month-old baby with abandoning him in the hospital after learning that he has disabilities.

DUBAI // Parents who abandoned their five-month-old baby in hospital because he was born with disabilities need help and understanding, not prosecution, support groups said yesterday.

The baby was born prematurely in a Dubai hospital in August, and transferred to Latifa Hospital with complications arising from breathing and respiratory problems. He is suffering from a neurological disorder and epilepsy.

The parents, who are Emirati, stopped visiting the child in hospital late last year.

Police tried to persuade them to take the baby home, but have now asked public prosecution to rule on whether a legal case can be brought to force them to do so.

Support groups, however, urged a different approach. “Don’t be so quick to judge the family. Help them instead come to terms with the child,” said Gulshan Kavarana, the founder of Special Families Support, a group of more than 200 families who have relatives with disabilities.

Col Mohammed Abdullah Al Mur, director general of the Human Rights Department of Dubai Police, said children with disabilities needed more love and care. “This is not a reason to leave a child in the hospital,” he said.

“We have been in contact with the father to tell the parents that the child does not need to stay in the hospital any more. The child needs to go home.

“The father says they have an older child with the same disability, but that is not a reason to not accept this young baby.”

Mrs Kavarana said: “The parents probably need counselling. They need psychological help. They may be still grieving about their older child and haven’t come to terms with the first child’s disabilities.

“Unless you are in a similar situation and have brought up a child with special needs, you really don’t know what is going on in their home.”

Long-term medical aid, support and counselling were required not only for Emirati families who have children with disabilities but also for expatriates whose children were born in the UAE with special needs, she ssid.

“There is a stigma associated with these children here. People just don’t accept them and look down on families who have children with special needs.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of and each child is different, but it takes a long time even for parents to come to terms and truly accept the child.”

The police intervention came after hospital authorities told the force’s department of women and children that the parents were refusing to accept the baby.

The Human Rights Department has offered to pay for the care of the child, but there has been no response from the parents.

“We will know in a few days from the public prosecution if there can be a legal case or not against the parents,” Col Al Mur said.

“We first tried in a good way to call the father and talk to him to take the child. We have told the father that we are ready to help with a baby sitter.

“We are ready to help them to care for their baby. The child is under our protection and we will need to take some action for its future. We will know very soon what action we must take.”

Hospital authorities have urged police to resolve the issue with the parents, as the child no longer requires medical care. The hospital asked the parents to take their child because the bed where he is receiving treatment is needed for other emergency cases.

The father has told police that the child was born with breathing problems and did not have any other disabilities before and at birth.

He told police the reason the family has not accepted the child is because the pre-natal tests did not show any signs of disability.

“But this baby is now ready to stay in a home and the parents must not refuse to accept it,” Col Al Mur said.