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Infant Abduction – Prevention

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Infant Abduction – Prevention

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Infant abductionHow is Infant Abduction Done in a Hospital?
These are some of the factors that can result in an infant abduction in a hospital. All expose the hospital employees for liability related to the abduction event.

      • The security equipment is not available or working.
      • There are entry points to a maternity unit that are not monitored or secured.
      • The employees are not sufficiently trained or credentialed.
      • Employees are distracted by an emergency or a diversion created by an accomplice.
      • There is a delay in notifying security when an abduction is suspected or other communication issues.
      • There are cultural factors that make staff reluctant to confront unidentified visitors/providers.

Here is a typical pattern, although this can vary. In part 1, I described the typical infant abductor. An infant abductor may pretend to be a healthcare worker, such as a nurse or social worker. She may walk into the mother’s room pretending to have the need to take the child for a medical reason. She may carry a bag to use to conceal the child. If the child has on radio frequency security identification tag on the umbilical cord or around a wrist or ankle, the abductor may cut or quickly remove the tag while leaving the unit and hospital.

Staff Responsibilities
Here are the expectations for how the maternity unit staff should conduct themselves.

• If you don’t belong on the maternity unit, don’t consider it a place where you can casually visit.
• The labor and delivery routine should include attaching identically numbered bands to the infant and mother and father (or significant other) immediately after birth.
• Footprint the infant, take a color photo and record the physical examination within 2 hours of birth.
• Keep maternity doors locked. Never prop them open. Make sure the video cameras are monitoring them.
• Don’t allow people you don’t recognize to follow you through the maternity unit doors.
• Don’t post the full names of mothers or infants where other patients or visitors can see them.
• Transport infants only in bassinets and not in the arms of the staff member. Never leave bassinets unattended in a hallway.
• Wear up to date color photograph ID badges. Your maternity unit policy may require you to have a conspicuous badge that shows you may have direct contact with infants.
• Fully comply with the roles associated with your facility’s infant security alarm system.
• Don’t delay in activating or responding to an alarm. In several cases, an abductor was able to quickly remove an electronic security tag from an infant.
• Be suspicious of anyone who visits the unit repeatedly but is not seeing a specific patient or cannot name the person she wants to see.
• Be suspicious of anyone who asks about when the infants are fed, about the unit layout such as the location of stairs, or anyone carrying large packages or tote bags.
• Check the infant’s ID band and mother’s band for a match before discharging them from the hospital.
• Use infant gowns and blankets that are conspicuously marked with the hospital name and logo so the infant is readily identified as a patient of the hospital.
• Keep nursery doors locked. Never leave infants in the nursery unattended. Take them to their parents one at a time.
• Consistently assign the same nurses to the mothers and infants to reduce the risk of personnel being unfamiliar to the mothers.

What are the damages?
An infant is recovered within hours, unharmed. The damages are the parents’ distress at learning their child was kidnapped – the anguish, the worry, the agony of not knowing if they will ever see their child again. This is not a crime that can be kept quiet. The publicity and damage to the hospital’s reputation make this a costly crime. A settlement seems like a likely event.

Med League supplies well-qualified expert witnesses to testify in medical malpractice and personal injury cases. Contact us for help with your next case.

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