Sacrificing babies to a God of convenience

Obstetricians and their patients have been unknowingly sacrificing thousands of babies to the God of their own convenience by choosing to have early-elective deliveries.

The rate of infant mortality, rises by 50% for early-elective delivery births compared to babies who reach full-term.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (March 3, 2014) Dr. Parissa Moradi, an ob-gyn in L.A. said 15-20% of her expectant mothers ask for early deliveries “Mostly because they get tired of being pregnant,”

Dr. Robert Wiebe, chief medical officer of Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest hospital chains, said it had been common for doctors to move up delivery because they were going out of town for a vacation or conference.

Obstetricians aren’t generally involved in care for the newborn he added so many “don’t always know the consequences of early-elective delivery or they underestimate the risk.”

In early-elective deliveries, the potential complications to the baby range from breathing and feeding problems to infections. The rate of infant mortality, or death in the first year, rises by 50% for early-elective delivery births compared to babies who reach full-term, research shows.

Scheduling for convenience also boosts the likelihood of a cesarean section, which raises the risk of complications for the mother. It’s estimated these unnecessary early-elective deliveries increase healthcare costs by one half to one billion dollars annually.

This terrible custom of early-elective delivery births arose because our society is increasingly arrogant and Hutzpadic in our attitude to nature, and the religious value of self-discipline.

We want quick and easy solutions to all social and personal difficulties and inconveniences. Little else matters.

That is why the number of Americans who describe themselves as religious has declined in the last 2-3 decades. They want freedom to do their own thing and to be responsible to no higher authority.

Fortunately, U.S. hospitals are making major strides at clamping down on early elective deliveries of babies and instead letting Mother Nature take its course in response to growing pressure from employers, government officials and patient-safety advocates.

The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed organization that tracks hospital safety and quality, published data Monday showing a sharp decrease in early-elective deliveries since 2010 nationwide and in California.

The rate of deliveries before 39 weeks without a medical reason fell to 4.6% last year compared with 17% in 2010 among nearly 1,000 U.S. hospitals that reported results.

California hospitals showed similar progress, going from 14.7% in 2010 to 3% last year.

“This is a remarkable reduction,” said Edward McCabe, chief medical officer at the March of Dimes, which has pushed hospitals to address the issue. “It involves changing the culture of the hospital and that is always very hard to do.”

There are still hospitals where the rate of early deliveries is still relatively high, at 20% and 30% of all births. About a third of the 969 hospitals that reported data are still above Leapfrog’s target rate of 5%.

“Healthcare takes a long time to change,” said Leah Binder, chief executive of Leapfrog, a nonprofit group in Washington. “This is one of the most extraordinary examples of progress in healthcare that I’ve seen in my career.”

Leapfrog began publicly reporting this maternity data four years ago, and health-policy experts credit that exposure for spurring change.

The Obama administration has just begun collecting this data from hospitals nationwide as part of patient-safety efforts under the Affordable Care Act.

In response to the heightened scrutiny, many hospitals have recently adopted “hard-stop” policies, banning doctors from scheduling deliveries prior to 39 completed weeks without a medical reason.

Some health insurers and government health programs have sought to hit hospitals and doctors in the wallet.

In South Carolina, the state’s Medicaid program and the BlueCross BlueShield health plan there stopped paying for early-elective deliveries.

South Carolina had one of the country’s highest rates of early-elective deliveries in 2010, at 27.3%. Last year, the statewide average was under 5%, according to Leapfrog.

Dr. Wilburn Durousseau, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Francis, said it can be an adjustment for doctors who were taught that delivering at 37 weeks was acceptable.

For three decades, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has advised against early-elective deliveries.

But just last year, it redefined a full-term birth as 39 to nearly 41 weeks to reflect recent research that shows the importance each week can have on the health of a newborn.

“You came up believing what you were doing was correct,” Durousseau said. “There is a certain amount of intellectual resistance to change.”

Riverside County resident Jennifer Loza said she was offered an early delivery for her baby son, Steven, in 2002. She had suffered fromĀ migrainesĀ and morning sickness for much of her pregnancy so the idea was tempting. But she opted to wait, feeling it was better for her son.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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