When babies are born without a name chosen yet by their parents, most hospital staffs label children with an identification bracelet and a generic name that includes the gender of the baby and the parent’s last name — like “Babygirl Hobson,” according to NPR.
But this can be problematic and potentially life-threatening for newborns. Doctors sometimes assign the wrong medications and treatments to the wrong baby because of the generic “babygirl” or “babyboy” names, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics.
The study found when hospitals take the mother’s first name instead and assign it to the baby — like Katherinegirl Hobson — less mistakes are made. In fact, errors dropped by 36 percent through that method, the study said.
“We were able to demonstrate what everyone sort of knew but couldn’t prove — that using a generic naming convention increases the risk of wrong-patient errors, such as placing orders on the wrong patient,” lead researcher Dr. Jason Adelman said, according to U.S. News.
Other medical mistakes could include reading the wrong test results for the wrong patients, giving the wrong blood products or medication to the wrong patient or delivering the wrong breast milk to the wrong child, according to U.S. News. These medical errors could be life-threatening for children, the study said.
“The potential medical error that can occur when physicians or other health care professionals confuse one patient for another can be quite serious, even deadly,” Dr. Clay Jones, a pediatrician specializing in newborns at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts, told U.S. News. “Imagine giving a medication meant for one patient to another patient with a life-threatening allergy to it.”
Mislabels have caused some concerns among parents in recent years. The Stir reported on a Minnesota woman who breastfed the wrong boy because of mislabeling. The baby had to undergo HIV and hepatitis tests because he received breast milk from the wrong mother, according to The Stir.
In 2012, a Jacksonville, Florida, mother Karen Butler found her newborn boy was listed as a girl and given a different last name by the hospital staff, Yahoo! News reported. Though nothing bad happened with the young Butler boy, the risk was still there, Butler told Yahoo! News.
“Anything could have happened,” she said. “What if they gave him the wrong shot, or if they gave him the wrong medicine, anything.”
Hospitals sometimes mislabel medications, too. In 2006, a hospital in Indianapolis gave the wrong dosage of blood thinner to three newborns that resulted in their deaths, The Washington Post reported. The nurses gave the wrong dosage because the handwritten labels of the medicines were mislabeled.
Similarly, in 2007, actor Dennis Quaid’s newborns were given an accident overdose of a blood-thinning drug because the different dosage amounts were stocked in the same cabinet, ABC News reported. The hospital said the standard policies and procedures were not followed.
Fixing these issues could be difficult, Adelman told Time magazine, especially if health policymakers don’t change their ways to create a standardized practice for identifying babies who don’t have a name yet.
Adelman encourages parents to have multiple simple baby names prepared before the baby is born so that their child can be correctly identified, Time reported.
“I think we should do away with these dangerous names,” he told Time. “We should encourage parents of multiples to have names ready.”