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Switched at Birth

April 15, 2008
by stacey
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It could be because I’m eight months pregnant. Seriously, you could chalk it up to hormones, but when I heard the news about the babies being switched at birth and going home with the wrong families in the Illinois hospital, I was terrified. According to Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion, Ill., the mix-up happened when the hospital ID tags were removed for the infants to undergo circumcision. Three things came to mind (in addition to shock and horror, and one more thing to worry about) when I heard the story on Good Morning America as I was leaving for work. One, hospitals need to be using advanced bar coding ID tags for newborns on arms and ankles, and two, since HIT can’t do everything, hospital employees need to do their part and be diligent. Growing up, my mother told me the story of how a maternity ward nurse had handed a baby to her to breast-feed, only the infant wasn’t hers. The New England nurse told my mother that of course it was her baby and that she’d just then scooped her out of the nursery. My mother knew better, though, and told the nurse that it wasn’t her child. The nurse insisted that it was, but my mother wouldn’t budge. Sure, maybe my mother’s maternal instinct had kicked in telling her that this child wasn’t my late sister. Or maybe it was, owing to the fact that the little girl the nurse was trying to hand over had sparse dark hair and my sister was born with thick blond hair had tipped her off. To me the little boys in question at Heartland Regional did appear quite similar. OK, so they’re not mine, and maybe I’ll know better when I deliver, but I’m thinking that relying on the mother’s bond with her baby is not enough—especially after the trauma the two of them endured during the delivery. Oh yeah, and the third thing that I thought of as I grabbed my keys and then shook my head, was that the near switch that my mother went through with my big sister was almost 40 years ago.

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Stacey Kramer is Managing Editor of Healthcare Informatics. She writes feature stories and...