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Court Ends Parental Rights In HIV-Positive Baby Case

Stethoscope and gavel against a white backdrop.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pointing to "egregious" conduct, a South Florida appeals court Thursday terminated the parental rights of a father who failed to properly care for a baby born with HIV.

The Broward County case stemmed from the December 2012 premature birth of a baby, identified in court documents by the initials Z.S., who tested positive for HIV at birth, according to the ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The child's parents were advised about the importance of the baby girl receiving medications and gaining weight.

About a year after the baby was born, she had developed full-blown AIDS, and the Department of Children moved to place her in foster care. Thursday's ruling said the child made a "quick turnaround" and that the foster mother expressed a desire to adopt her.

A Broward County circuit judge terminated the rights of the father, identified by the initials C.S., who testified that he had been the parent primarily responsible for the baby receiving medication. The father appealed, but a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the termination of rights.

"The evidence supported, and the trial court found, that the father's conduct qualifies as 'egregious,' because he knew of Z.S.'s illness and if he had given her medication, as instructed by the doctors, Z.S.'s viral load would have become undetectable within a few months,'' said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Martha Warner and joined by judges Spencer Levine and Mark Klingensmith.

"The professionals worked with both the father and mother for months trying to get them to administer the medications properly to protect the life of their baby, and they failed to heed the medical advice and instruction, knowing the consequences. Instead, the child ended up in a life-and-death situation."

The five-page ruling did not detail the status of the parental rights of the birth mother, though it cited a statement by medical professionals that "they had already intervened as much as they could, and the parents could not be rehabilitated to prevent further harm to the child."