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Newborn screening test could save lives

Although new mothers may justifiably breathe a sigh of relief after a complication-free delivery, a recent article reminds us that medical monitoring and preventive screening tests are recommended for newborns in the first few months.

Specifically, even newborns that appear healthy and happy could benefit from preventive testing. One mother learned this lesson the hard way when she discovered that her seven-week-old newborn had stopped breathing. Sadly, the newborn could not be saved. An autopsy revealed that the newborn had died from a critical congenital heart disease called total anomalous pulmonary venous connection.

When the mother learned that her newborn’s condition might have been treatable, her grief turned to anger. She did a little research on her own and discovered that a neighboring hospital had started a pilot program designed to detect heart problems in newborns by screening its newborns with a simple pulse oximeter test. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a congenital heart defect is an abnormality in the heart that is present at birth. There are many different examples of structural defects, from malfunctioning valves to more serious issues, like a missing heart chamber. Depending on the nature of the defect, the degree of circulatory impairment can vary greatly. However, the problem is very real, with an estimated 40,000 American babies born with a congenital heart defect each year.

A medical malpractice attorney knows that a professional level of medical care includes advising patients of recommended preventative practices and screening tests. Failing to advise a patient that he or she may be at risk for certain conditions might very well constitute a breach of that duty, depending on the specific circumstances. An attorney can review a patient’s case and provide an opinion whether physician negligence might be present.

Source: Washington Post, “Saving babies: An inexpensive, easy oxygen test can prevent many deaths,” Susan Berger,“ April 7, 2014

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