By Micaiah Bilger
Two Rhode Island emergency medical technicians’ “gross negligence” contributed to the death of a premature baby who was born in a toilet Aug. 1, according to a state health department investigation.
Live Action News uncovered the investigation by the Rhode Island Department of Health about the baby’s death, which might have been prevented had the emergency responders acted to save the child. The department recently suspended the two EMTs’ licenses.
According to the report, the baby’s mother went into premature labor at home on Aug. 1 and called 911. Before the EMTs reached her, she gave birth to her baby in a toilet, the investigation found.
The EMTs found the mother in the bathroom and cut the umbilical cord. Then, they moved the mother to the living room to care for her, leaving the baby in the toilet, the report continues. Later, when they returned to check on the baby, they said the baby did not have a pulse or respond when they tapped on its foot; so, they wrapped the baby in a towel and placed it in a biohazard bag, the investigation found.
When the ambulance arrived, the EMTs placed the biohazard bag with the baby in the vehicle with the mother, and both patients were transported to Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, according to the investigation.
At the hospital, the EMTs did not take the baby inside with the mother or tell the doctors or nurses about the baby, the report continues. Only when a doctor asked about the baby did a nurse return to the ambulance to bring the baby in for treatment, the investigation found.
The emergency room staff found that the baby still had a pulse and attempted to resuscitate the infant; however, it was too late. The baby died a short time later, according to the report.
State health officials said the EMTs should have tried neonatal resuscitation at the house and should have informed the emergency room staff about the infant right away. According to the investigation, their actions constituted “gross negligence,” and it is possible that the baby may have survived if he or she had received proper medical care.
The baby was estimated to be between 24 and 25 weeks of pregnancy, and premature babies have survived as early as 21 weeks.
In November, Guinness World Records recognized an Alabama boy who was born at 21 weeks as the youngest premature baby to survive. Curtis Means was born weighing 14.8 ounces at 21 weeks and one day in July 2020. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the story of another girl who survived after being born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy.
A 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more premature infants are surviving at 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, researchers also found that some hospitals do not try to save premature babies born before 24 weeks, despite the advances in premature infant care.
Others have reformed their practices as a result of the research. In 2019, the British Association of Perinatal Medicine updated its guidelines to recommend doctors provide life-saving treatment to premature babies at 22 weeks of pregnancy because of new medical advances. Previously, the association did not recommend treatment until 24 weeks.
Twenty Two Matters keeps a running list of hospitals confirmed to have saved premature babies born at 21 weeks to 22 weeks of pregnancy.