Inconsistency emerges in woman's claim that baby swap was intentional

November 25, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WAUCHULA, Fla. -- A glaring inconsistency has emerged in the story of a former nurse's aide who says doctors at a tiny Central Florida hospital conspired to swap Kimberly Mays with another baby 14 years ago.

Patricia Webb, 59, announced this week that she was ordered to make the baby switch by a physician and that she refused, only to find later that someone else had made the swap. She heard three doctors discussing why they did it, she said in a nationally broadcast interview on the CBS Evening News.

Their motive: They felt sorry for Barbara Mays, who had spent years trying to get pregnant and was dying of cancer.

"They found she was eat up with cancer, and they wanted her to have the good baby because she didn't have long to live," Ms. Webb said.

But her account is contradicted by Barbara Mays' medical record. The records show it was June 16, 1980 -- more than a year after the birth -- that she was diagnosed with the cervical cancer that would eventually kill her.

There was no way for doctors to have known she was ill at the time of Kimberly's birth, said George Russ, an attorney for Robert and Kimberly Mays. "This woman has clearly admitted she is a liar."

Reached at her home near Wauchula by the Miami Herald after the broadcast aired, Ms. Webb would not explain the discrepancy. After a pause, she said: "No comment. Call the lawyer."

Ms. Webb, who is dying of respiratory disease, has been referring all questions to her Bartow attorneys, Pansler and Moody. They have been reticent, too, saying yesterday that it was not in the interest of their client to elaborate on the statement that set off a shock wave in the case.

Ms. Webb's story -- contested by many principals in the case -- is that doctors knew that one of the babies born in December 1978 in tiny Hardee Memorial Hospital had a heart defect and ordered her to switch name tags.

"You could look at those two babies, the Mays baby, [and know that] the one that she had, had a heart condition," Ms. Webb said in the CBS interview.

"They're bluish-white looking when they have a heart condition like that, and the other one was pretty little pink."

She said she refused to make the switch but noticed the next day it had been done.

The leader of the conspiracy, she said, was Dr. Ernest Palmer, the physician who treated both babies. He was making no comment yesterday, but his lawyer, Cliff Somers, said the story was a lie.

"He didn't have anything to do with switching babies, and he doesn't know anything about how the babies were switched."

The other doctors named in the suits -- William Black and Adley Sedaros -- had no comment yesterday.

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