Nurse who adopted patient’s baby is sanctioned by the state

By: - February 17, 2023 5:01 pm

The Simon family at the Bremer County Courthouse for Ezra’s adoption in May 2022. Back row, left to right: Alexis, Emilee, Allyson, Miriam, Travis (holding Ezra) and John. Front row: Avia, Hezekiah and Josiah. (Photo courtesy of Miriam Simon)

An Iowa nurse who adopted the baby of a former patient has been sanctioned for her actions by state regulators.

The Iowa Board of Nursing alleges that Miriam Simon of Waverly violated state regulations that prohibit nurses from attempting to initiate an emotional, social or business relationship with a patient for personal gain regardless of the patient’s consent. In addition, the board has charged Simon with violating patient confidentiality regulations.

The board alleges that Simon, while working in the obstetrics unit at Decorah’s Winneshiek Medical Center in September 2021, cared for a woman and her newborn son. While providing that care, Simon allegedly “engaged in conversations” with the woman as to whether she wished to keep the baby or place him for adoption, according to the board.

The baby, named Ezra, was eventually adopted by Simon and her husband, Travis. Ezra is now 17 months old and in good health.

According to the board, it was the 43-year-old Simon who “initiated” efforts to adopt the child – but Simon said in an interview that’s not accurate. She said after raising seven children of her own she had no interest at all in adopting a child until the birth mother contacted her through Facebook and raised the issue.

Ezra, the 17-month-old adopted son of Miriam and Travis Simon in Waverly. (Photo courtesy of Miriam Simon)

“The mother reached out to me after he was born,” Simon said. “This hospital for some reason had both my first and last name on my name badge, and she later told me that’s how she was able to get in touch with me. She said, ‘I wrote down your first and last name because we had a really good connection, and I just really liked you.’”

Simon said the mother was in the United States on a visa and attending school. The woman risked deportation if she dropped out, Simon said, but was also having a difficult time caring for the child while attending school and living in a dormitory.

“So, she asked me, ‘Would you consider adopting?’” Simon said. “And I was, like, ‘No, no, no, I have seven children, and my seventh is eight years old, and we are done.’”

After Simon’s husband expressed interest in the birth mother’s proposal, Simon reconsidered and eventually told the woman that she and her husband wanted to adopt the boy.

The adoption process was expensive, Simon said, but proceeded quickly and soon Ezra was part of her family. There weren’t any issues, she said, until she was at work one day and mentioned to a colleague that she was tired and had forgotten what it was like to have a newborn child at home.

She explained to her co-worker that she had adopted a former patient’s infant, and the co-worker “flipped,” Simon said, telling her that she had crossed patient-caregiver boundaries and had violated federal patient-privacy laws.

Soon after, the Decorah hospital terminated its contract with her, Simon said, and seven months later she was called by an investigator from the Iowa Board of Nursing.

According to Simon, she tried to explain to the board that she adopted the child out of a desire to help both the patient and the child. “They were just, like, ‘Well, you can’t do that.’”

Simon said the board made it seem as if she had taken advantage of the child’s birth mother. “She’s Hispanic and she’s here on an international visa, and so the Board of Nursing used that, like, saying she was an illegal immigrant and I took advantage of her. And I was, like, ‘She has her master’s, this woman is highly educated, she’s more educated than I am.’”

Simon and the board eventually agreed to settle the charges with an agreement that stipulates she must complete 30 hours of educational training on patient privacy and take a three-day course in professional boundaries and ethics.

Simon said the decision to adopt wasn’t made lightly and cost $25,000.

She said that every night, while she rocks Ezra, the child’s birth mother sings him songs in Spanish while the three are connected via FaceTime.

“And never did I stop to think that, like, I was doing something wrong,” she says. “The hurt lies in that they made me feel like a predator. What was meant to be beautiful turned quickly into stress and anxiety.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.