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Can Parents Legally Remove a Baby from the NICU?

In the wake of giving birth, one of the most challenging situations for a parent can be having their baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Questions like “Can I legally take my baby from the NICU against medical advice?” frequently arise. To shed light on this complex topic, we’ve gathered input from various legal experts.

The Legal Implications of Leaving the NICU Against Medical Advice

When a baby is admitted to the NICU, it’s crucial to understand the legal considerations involved in removing them against the advice of medical professionals.

Kathleen Delacy’s Opinion

Kathleen Delacy emphasizes that the ability to legally remove a baby from the NICU largely depends on the baby’s diagnosis and the recommendations of the doctors.

Insight from Anne Barbara Howard

Legal expert Anne Barbara Howard advises that taking a baby from the NICU against medical advice could prompt child services intervention. This could potentially lead to the baby being placed in foster care.

Advice from Mark T. Peters, Sr.

Mark T. Peters, Sr. suggests taking proactive measures if parents have concerns about their baby’s care. This could include initiating legal action to order the hospital to release the baby, thus pre-empting any hospital-initiated legal proceedings.

Rebekah Susan Sass’ Perspective

Rebekah Susan Sass echoes similar concerns, warning that removing a child from the NICU without medical clearance could lead to a court-issued protection order under welfare and institutions code 300b.

Dennis P. Mikko’s View

Dennis P. Mikko acknowledges a parent’s right to refuse medical treatment for their child. However, if healthcare professionals believe this is detrimental to the baby, they could report the case to Child Protective Services, possibly leading to legal action.

Kevin W. Bruning’s Opinion

According to Kevin W. Bruning, removing a baby from the NICU against medical advice could invite a Department of Children and Family Services investigation.

Understanding More about NICU Stay and Your Legal Rights

In this section, we will answer some common questions related to NICU stays that parents often have. Let’s explore each of these important inquiries in more detail.

1. Can I discharge my baby from special care?

While as a parent, you might have the instinct to want to bring your baby home as soon as possible, it’s crucial to note that discharging a baby from special care isn’t always straightforward. The doctors and nursing staff have a professional obligation to ensure the baby is ready for discharge, both medically and developmentally.

2. Can a hospital stop you from leaving with your newborn?

Hospitals have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure the welfare and safety of all patients, including newborns. If medical professionals believe that the discharge might endanger the health of the baby, they can prevent you from leaving. In such cases, Child Protective Services may also be involved.

3. Can I discharge my baby from hospital against medical advice?

While you technically can discharge your baby against medical advice, this decision could have severe repercussions. This act may potentially instigate an investigation by Child Protective Services or other relevant agencies, particularly if the medical team perceives this move as detrimental to your child’s wellbeing.

4. How much does a NICU stay cost per day?

The cost of a NICU stay varies significantly based on factors such as the level of care required, the baby’s health condition, the duration of stay, and the hospital’s location and policies. On average, a NICU stay can range from $3,000 to $5,000 per day, but costs can be much higher in complex cases.

5. How many pounds does a NICU baby have to be to go home?

The baby’s weight is not the sole determinant for discharge. Instead, the baby needs to meet certain developmental milestones, including maintaining body temperature, feeding adequately, and showing no signs of serious health complications. However, many hospitals have a guideline suggesting a weight of around 4-5 pounds (1.8-2.3 kg) before considering discharge.

6. Do hospitals charge mothers to hold their baby?

Hospitals typically do not charge mothers to hold their babies. However, there may be additional charges associated with immediate skin-to-skin contact after cesarean sections due to the extra staff required for the safety and care of both mother and baby. This varies by hospital and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

It’s important to consult with your NICU’s healthcare team to understand the specific circumstances around your baby’s care. Every baby’s situation is unique, and decisions should be made with their best interests in mind.

Key Milestones for NICU Babies Before Discharge

Understanding when your baby can go home from the NICU requires familiarity with certain developmental milestones. A baby’s release often depends on meeting the A.F.T.E.R. (Antibiotics, Feeding, Temperature, Events and Respiratory) milestones.

  • Antibiotics: A baby must be off antibiotics and show no signs of infection.
  • Feeding: The baby should be feeding normally, maintaining a stable blood sugar level, and not losing weight.
  • Temperature: A stable body temperature without the aid of an incubator is a requirement.
  • Events: The baby must be free from any apnea or bradycardic events for 3-5 days.
  • Respiratory: A baby must be breathing normally and without the need for oxygen support.

Every NICU Experience is Unique

Every NICU journey is unique, and it’s essential for parents to work closely with their medical team, stay informed, and follow recommended protocols. As a rule of thumb, babies will not be discharged until they are ready and performing well, making their health and wellbeing the utmost priority.

When NICU Stay Extends Beyond Expectations

Dr. Stella Amechi, an adult oncologist and mother of a NICU baby, shares her experience. Despite her medical background, she faced the heartbreaking reality of having her son, Samuel, stay in the NICU for extended periods due to respiratory issues and underdeveloped kidneys. Amechi’s story underscores the importance of communication with the medical team and exploring all available options for the baby’s care.

Seeking Professional Advice

When faced with difficult decisions about a baby’s NICU stay, it’s crucial to seek professional advice. Legal and medical professionals can guide you through these trying times and provide insights tailored to your unique situation.