Hospital stops using Heparin with infants to prevent overdoses

After 17 infants in a neonatal unit at a Texas hospital were overdosed with Heparin, a blood thinner, many hospitals and physicians have to looking at their own procedures to ensure that they do not commit medical malpractice by making a similar error in their own facility. Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Maine decided to take a big step to ensure that no accident with heparin will happen in their hospital: they voted unanimously to ban the use of the blood thinner in their newborn nursery. Their vote was after many high profile cases, including that of the actor Dennis Quaid’s twins, and before the Texas case appeared on the front of the newspapers. Their press release read, “The change has been prompted by several high profile cases in other hospitals where ‘adult strength’ heparin was inadvertently given to infants leading to their deaths.”

Heparin is a blood thinner that is used to prevent blood in IV lines from clotting. “We have used this medication safely and without incident for many years at PBMC,” said Dr. Bill Stephenson, chairman of the Pediatric Department. “However, recent studies have shown that substituting saline as a harmless alternative can be just as effective, making our decision to change an easy one.”

This decision by Penobscot Bay Medical Center seems prudent especially in the light of studies showing there are harmless alternatives.

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