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A new law placed into effect recently requires that hospitals and their physicians test newborn babies for heart defects before being permitted to leave the hospital. Senate Bill 270-2013 was passed in 2013 and took effect at the beginning of 2014 and requires that the pulse oximetry screening take place within the first 24 hours of life. The pulse oximetry test is done by placing a sensor on the baby's foot and then on the baby's hand and by using light to measure how much oxygen is in the blood. The test is painless, non-invasive, and is quick to measure for low oxygen levels in the blood. If the amount of oxygen seems to be low, then doctors are able to run another battery of tests such as an electrocardiogram and an ultrasound to ensure that the heart is responding as it should. 

The Pulse Ox

The Pulse Ox, as it is known for short, was added to the list of 30 to 40 conditions that newborns are tested for so as to ensure that when they leave the hospital they are being discharged as perfectly healthy. Without the Pulse Ox, babies who are perceived as being perfectly healthy may rapidly experience congenital heart problems, and once these problems occur, the baby has very little time between the beginning of its heart troubles and the surgery that is required to save its life.

Congenital Heart Defects are Leading Cause of Death in Newborns

Congenital heart birth defects, as determined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are the leading causes of death in newborns; the CDC estimates that 7,200 newborns have critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs), which make up about 30 percent of congenital birth defects, which, without early detection and care, can lead to infant death or severe mental and physical disabilities.

The New Pulse Ox Law and its Effect on Medical Standard of Care

This new legislation falls under New York Public Health Section 2733, which requires physicians and staff of hospitals to report to the parents any birth defects or genetic disorders, and requires that the reporting be completely confidential. As part of the initiative, the hospitals are required to test a laundry-list of conditions to ensure that the newborns are discharged with all available information provided to the parents. Not only does this help to inform the new parents about the health of their newborn, especially when the baby is extremely vulnerable within its first few days, but also requires of the hospital a standard and duty of care by which they must operate.

A hospital has a responsibility to screen the newborns for everything that is required by law as the bare minimum, but may request further tests on suspicion of any medical malady. New legislation, which affirmatively requires that the hospital perform a pulse ox on the child, sets a legal standard that the parents are made aware of any ailments. Any practice by the hospital that is less than the bare minimum is at the least negligence, but with the possibility of malpractice depending on the severity of the hospital's error.

NYC Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you believe that your newborn did not receive the standard of care that doctors and hospitals owe to him as a patient, and he was injured as a result, please contact one of our experienced attorneys at Keogh Crispi, P.C. Our New York City attorneys will be able to counsel you through this difficult time and provide you with the answers that you are looking for. Call us today at 212- 818-0600 or send us a message online.

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