Hospital mix ups put newborns at risk

When you went to the hospital or birthing center for the delivery of your child, you were probably nervous about the well-being of your baby. The arrival of your child was a significant event, and the hospital stay likely brought joyful visitors and tender moments of bonding.

However, for the staff of nurses and doctors, the birth of your baby may have been just another part of a routine day. When a job becomes routine, people may begin to make mistakes. A recent report found that Pennsylvania hospitals saw over a thousand mistakes in a two-year period involving newborn identification and care.

Mistakes are rare but cause concern

Every day, physicians and nurses working with newborns in Pennsylvania make approximately two mistakes related to the identification of the child and parents. These are general and procedural mistakes that include:

  • Blood samples that medical professionals mislabeled
  • Urine that medical professionals forgot to label
  • X-rays that doctors ordered for the wrong patients
  • Identification bracelets on infants that did not match the ID on the mothers’ bracelets
  • Nurses taking the wrong newborns to the parents

The report reassured that no parents took home the wrong child, and in many of the examples, someone caught the mistake before harming the child. Nevertheless, the study found that on 89 occasions, an infant received breast milk from the wrong mother. In one instance, a doctor circumcised a child without the parents’ permission.

Not a big deal?

Given the number of babies born each year in Pennsylvania delivery rooms and birthing centers, the fact that there were only 1,234 events of mistaken identification in a two-year period prompts some to feel the risk of harm is low. For example, if your child received the wrong breast milk, there is only a slight chance that the milk will transmit an infection from the other mother.

Perhaps more seriously than the numerous incidents of accidental swapping of breast milk was the 110 times when a medical professional administered the wrong medication to a baby. The report qualifies the startling number by explaining that many of these mistakes were caught in time, for example, when a pharmacist notified the medical staff that the weight of a baby did not match what was written on the prescription.

Taking care of your child

You should not have to spend the short amount of time you have in the hospital after your baby is born worrying about medical mishaps and careless mistakes. If your child is injured because a doctor or nurse misidentifies him or her, you have the right to legal counsel. Your attorney will use the many resources at hand to build an effective case that will potentially help you recover damages.

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