Did Someone Try to Murder Ximena?
Baby left to die at Vancouver General Hospital
As police probe an abortion survivor's case, a former Supreme Court
justice names names, while nurses run for cover
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (1985)
BC Report Newsmagazine, August 30, 1999
Reproduced with permission
. . . an unwanted premature baby, born
unexpectedly after a botched abortion, was abandoned
by medical staff at Vancouver General Hospital and
left to die in a room used to store dead fetuses.
Although shivering, whimpering and gasping for air,
the baby was forced to fend for herself for 40
minutes until a nurse finally came to her aid.
More than 13 years have passed since an unwanted
premature baby, born unexpectedly after a botched
abortion, was abandoned by medical staff at
Vancouver General Hospital and left to die in a room
used to store dead fetuses. Although shivering,
whimpering and gasping for air, the baby was forced
to fend for herself for 40 minutes until a nurse
finally came to her aid. But it was too late to save
the child from serious injury. The girl, who came to
be known as Ximena Renaerts, suffered permanent
brain damage and is now a quadriplegic with the
mental capacity of a three year old.
Today, Ximena lives comfortably with her adoptive
family in Chilliwack, but the repercussions
surrounding her birth and the record-setting damage
settlement she recently received from VGH are
continuing to send shockwaves through the medical
community. In fact, the controversy may now grow
even larger. BC Report has learned that the
Vancouver Police Department has launched a criminal
investigation into the circumstances surrounding
Ximena's treatment at VGH. Nevertheless, when
contacted August 11, police spokesman Sergeant Bob
Cooper called the case a "bull----" one, similar to
cases involving children who die while being
delivered by midwives. However, he later confirmed,
"We are taking a preliminary look into it."
It is the department's second go around on the
file. In response to a June 1998 request from B.C.
Liberal MLA Geoff Plant, Vancouver police conducted
a cursory investigation of the case, but abandoned
the review after only a few weeks.
BC Report has also discovered that the Renaerts'
lawyer, former B.C. Supreme Court justice Thomas
Berger, has named two VGH medical practitioners in
connection with possible criminal wrongdoing in the
case. In a recently unsealed document filed with the
court last year, Mr. Berger declared, "There is
evidence of serious crimes" committed by Dr. Kamil
Jaroudi, who now practises in Saudi Arabia, and
nurse Vera Wood, who is retired.
As well, BC Report has learned that the
Registered Nurses Association of B.C. conducted a
professional conduct review" into the actions of two
nurses involved in Ximena's birth. However, the
association has thrown a blanket of secrecy over the
matter. Nevertheless, Claire Kermacks, the RNABC's
director of regulatory services, maintains the
public interest has been protected because at least
one of the unnamed people overseeing the review's
work "is a member of the public."
None of this is good enough for Chilliwack MLA
Barry Penner, the B.C. Liberals' deputy critic of
the Ministry of the Attorney General. "Clearly this
matter needs to have an impartial and thorough
investigation," he says. "On the face of it, one can
imagine that crimes such as child abandonment or
criminal negligence might have occurred." Adds
Charles Lugosi, who was the Renaerts' first lawyer,
"The facts of the Ximena case cry out for
intervention by the attorney general. And his
silence is deafening."
The case made national headlines following the
July 30 disclosure that VGH had agreed to pay $8.7
million to settle a civil suit launched by Ximena's
adoptive family. The award was said to be the
largest of its kind in B.C. history. The money will
be used to provide Ximena with a specially built
house and round-the-clock care for the rest of her
life. The case was actually settled on the eve of a
trial a year ago, but details were withheld until
The facts surrounding Ximena's birth suggest
serious wrongdoing. Ximena's natural mother, Nadine
Bourne, arrived at VGH on the evening of December
16, 1985. She said she had received an abortion at a
Bellingham, Washington, clinic four days earlier and
was suffering complications. Records show that Dr.
Jaroudi, a resident at VGH, examined Ms. Bourne,
then 22, but failed to discover the existence of the
baby she was carrying. At 3:20 a.m. December 17 Ms.
Bourne gave birth to Ximena while seated at a
commode. Although Ms. Bourne had told hospital
officials she was just 14 to 16 weeks pregnant,
Ximena's size--about three pounds--indicated she was
much further along.
Court records show that Ms. Wood did not call a
"code blue" (the resuscitation team) or the "infant
transport team" (to send the baby to Children's
Hospital) upon Ximena's birth, although she was
struggling for life and was clearly large enough to
be viable. Instead, "She took the baby into the
service room where dead fetuses are stored, and left
it there [in a bedpan] for 40 minutes," according to
a July 1998 document prepared by lawyer Berger and
filed with the court two months later: "We could
prove that Vera Wood and other nurses did nothing to
suction the baby or to provide warmth or oxygen for
the child. Our case was that the baby suffered
severe [trauma] as a result of these acts or
omissions by VGH and its employees, resulting in
brain damage in the form of mental retardation and
After 40 minutes, nurse Wood called the night
nursing supervisor, Joyce Hatherall, who cleared the
baby's air passages, provided warmth and called for
Mr. Berger states further, "We also had evidence
that Dr. Jaroudi, called up to the ward, realized
the baby had been delivered by Nadine Bourne, and
realized it was viable, but nevertheless told the
nurses not to resuscitate the baby ('...let it go').
He was ignored by Joyce Hatherall."
(Contacted by telephone at her Point Grey home
two weeks ago, Mrs. Hatherall refused to comment on
her role in saving Ximena. When it was pointed out
that some consider her a hero, she said, "Don't give
me that. It is very upsetting. I do not want to talk
Evidence also showed that, even after nurse
Hatherall's intervention, Ximena was put at further
risk. She was placed for a time on a metal counter,
which likely resulted in continuing heat loss and
hypothermia. And, in finally calling for the infant
transport team, Dr. Jaroudi neglected to tell
Children's Hospital the location from which he was
calling. "As a result, another half-hour was lost,"
Mr. Berger declared.
The lawyer also pointed out that, because VGH
said it had conducted no internal review of the
case, the lawsuit and the pre-trial examinations for
discovery became the de facto investigation.
And that investigation led Mr. Berger to conclude,
"It is apparent that there is evidence of serious
crimes by Vera Wood and Dr. Jaroudi. This may still
be a matter to be considered by the Criminal Justice
Branch of the Attorney General's Ministry."
In fact, Mr. Berger says his office contacted
Vancouver police in December 1998. "We sent them the
transcripts, the medical charts, the complete record
of everything in our files, and on behalf of the
family, we asked them to investigate the evidence of
serious crimes," he told BC Report. Police
investigators later visited his office twice to
obtain more information.
Ximena's adoptive mother, Margaret, adds that
Vancouver police visited their Chilliwack home
sometime in May. Sgt. Cooper would provide no
details of the investigation. "We are just in the
preliminary stages," he says. "It's not something
that's going to be wrapped up tomorrow."
Langley pro-life activist John Hof is pleased
police are finally looking into the matter after
washing their hands of it last year. Nevertheless,
he is upset with Sgt. Cooper's initial
characterization of the case as "bull---," and says
he hopes Vancouver police do not end up conducting
the same sort of half-hearted investigation that
Calgary police did in connection with recent
allegations of baby deaths at Foothills Hospital
("The investigation that wasn't," Aug. 9). "Justice
has been served insofar as Ximena's welfare is
concerned," he says. "No justice has been served as
far as those who perpetrated this crime."
Section 218 of the Criminal Code makes it an
offence for anyone to abandon or expose a child
under 10 "so that its life is or is likely to be
endangered or its health is or is likely to be
permanently injured." Section 219 states someone is
criminally negligent if "in omitting to do anything
that is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless
disregard for lives or safety or other persons."
A more serious charge would be one of attempted
murder. Section 223, which deals with homicide,
states that a child becomes human when "it has
completely proceeded, in a living state, from the
body of its mother."
Significantly, the RNABC reminds its members in a
review of relevant legislation that the code
"strictly prohibits the deliberate killing of any
person. Therefore, in no event should a registered
nurse deliberately terminate the life of a patient."
Contacted by phone at her Vancouver apartment two
weeks ago, retired nurse Wood said she was not aware
Mr. Berger had named her. When asked for her
reaction, she said, "I can't talk any more" and
referred questions to VGH. Hospital president and
CEO Murray Martin said earlier he "did not wish to
engage in further debate on this case."
BC Report found a listing for Dr. Jaroudi on the
website of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and
Research Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he
heads the reproductive medicine section in the
department of obstetrics and gynecology. As of press
time, Dr. Jaroudi had not responded to an e-mail
requesting his comments on Mr. Berger's statements
and the police investigation.
Mr. Hof points out that Dr. Jaroudi's superior at
the time of Ximena's birth, Dr. Gerald Korn, wrote
Dr. Jaroudi five years ago offering to keep his
address secret. Dr. Korn's May 9, 1994, letter
alerted Dr. Jaroudi to the Renaerts' lawsuit and
said, "Unfortunately, your name is included, but I
very much doubt if you will hear any more about it.
Certainly, I will not give anybody any indication
that I know of whereabouts." Ultimately, lawyers
travelled to Spain to obtain pre-trial testimony
from Dr. Jaroudi.
After being alerted to the Renaerts case by BC
Report, the B.C. Medical Association reviewed the
matter last summer. The BCMA's Dr. Morris VanAndel
found that Dr. Jaroudi was no longer under its
jurisdiction and that other doctors originally named
in the lawsuit, including Dr. Korn, were only
marginally involved in the matter and that no action
The RNABC launched its review at the same time,
but it did not discuss the case until this month.
Spokesman Kermacks says the review did not involve
nurse Wood, because she is now retired; however, it
did involve two other nurses. She explains that such
reviews can proceed under a formal "investigation
and inquiry" process but that most are resolved by
way of a "consensual complaint resolution." This
process involves "non-adversarial meetings" between
the nurse and the RNABC. "The agreement must be
approved by the chair of the Professional Conduct
Committee and two advisers (one of whom is a member
of the public) to ensure that the agreement is in
the public interest and the public is protected,"
RNABC rules declare.
But when asked for details on the Renaerts case,
spokesman Kermacks refuses to name the two nurses,
to say what matters the "consensual" review
considered, to reveal the review's findings, to name
the people that conducted the review, or even to
name the member of the public involved in the
process. "All I can say is that we investigated and
we came to an agreement with the nurses, but I'm not
at liberty to say what that was," she says. She did
say, however, that the two nurses are still working.
After having originally agreed to name officials
and the public adviser, she ultimately refused to do
so. "I don't want them harassed," she said August
17. Asked how the public could be assured its
interests were being considered, she said only that
they were. A search of the RNABC's website reveals
the existence of eight public representatives on the
association's board of directors. They are: Douglas
R. Moffatt, Melodie Corrigall, Marvin Rasmussen, Ted
Wright, Ted Hannah, Barbara Isaac, Pat Wilson and
Raymond J. Welch. No addresses or phone numbers are
Kelowna pro-life activist Ted Gerk, who has
pressed both the BCMA and the RNABC for action in
the Renaerts matter, is appalled by the
stonewalling. "It is the most idiotic thing I have
ever seen," Mr. Gerk charges. "There is no
accountability. And until they make public what has
gone on, I think the public has a justifiable right
to have a perception that they've done nothing, that
this has been a whitewash."
MLA Penner is similarly concerned. "In terms of
the review done by the nurses association, I think
that if that report deals with procedural mistakes
or errors in judgment, then the results should be
made public," he says. But whatever transpires, the
MLA says one fact remains. "This whole matter is
tragic, and it breaks my heart to know what's
happened to this little girl...It's like a worst
nightmare come true, and this little girl has to
live with the consequences."
Indeed, Ximena's adoptive mother worries says her
daughter has suffered terribly. "How can you ever
bring justice when all the damage is done?" Mrs.
Renaerts asks. "I guess my big hope that what
happened to Ximena won't be in vain," she adds. "It
could be you in the hospital and what if they feel
that you're not worthy of life. We have to stop