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DOCTOR

Doctor vindicated in newborn’s death

There was nothing wrong with the care given to a newborn baby who died in September of last year at Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital, according to a report on the incident.

Doctor vindicated in newborn's death

“We’ve completed a comprehensive investigation,” said Staffan Blom, head regional supervisor with Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), in a statement released on Tuesday.

“We’ve reviewed all available documentation and spoken with healthcare workers and the information we’ve collected is in accordance. We can’t see that there were any shortcomings in the care and handling of the little girl.”

The newborn’s death, which came to light in March of this year, prompted suspicions that the girl had been the victim of a mercy killing by one of the doctors involved in her care.

The girl was suffering from brain damage at the time of her death and a subsequent autopsy revealed that her death had been caused by an overdose of painkillers.

A scientific study has shown that the level of morphine found in the girl’s blood following her death has been found in other children who also died while fighting for their life in intensive care.

However, the Board of Health and Welfare found the forensic analysis of a blood sample taken during an autopsy of the girl also revealed a high concentration of the anaesthetic Pentothal, which is abnormal.

“We have no explanation for that and we won’t speculate about possible causes. Our examination has been concluded,” said Blom.

The doctor who administered the drugs was arrested at the hospital in March and remanded into custody by the Solna District Court on suspicion of manslaughter. She was released three days later.

The prosecutor believed that the doctor had carried out a mercy killing in order to ease the girl’s pain, by actively giving the baby a lethal injection of morphine and Pentothal.

The girl had been born prematurely and suffered from a lack of oxygen. In her second day of life, a nurse also administered too much sodium to the girl by mistake.

A subsequent ultrasound revealed that the newborn had suffered from cerebral haemorrhaging on both sides of her brain.

A number of doctors actively supported their accused colleague and questioned the handling of the case by police and prosecutors.

The current prosecutor in the case, Peter Claeson, has previously said that he would wait for the health board’s findings before deciding whether or not to file formal charges.

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HEALTH

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study

Swedish researchers say acupuncture "appears to reduce crying" in babies suffering from colic.

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study
File photo of a five-week old baby. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

But their work was criticized by colleagues in the medical field, with one calling the study methodology “appalling”.

A duo from Lund University's medicine faculty tested the traditional Chinese needle-piercing remedy in a trial involving nearly 150 babies between two and eight weeks old.

They reported their results in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, published by the BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

Compared to babies who did not undergo the needle treatment, infants who received acupuncture over two weeks exhibited “a significant relative reduction” in crying, the team found.

Such research can be controversial. Acupuncture is invasive, potentially painful, and its benefits are not universally accepted.

Organizations such as the British Medical Acupuncture Society says it is used to treat muscle and postoperative pain, as well as nausea.

But some think acupuncture's effects are that of a placebo, meaning people feel better because they believe it works. The National Institutes of Health, the main UN research agency, says there is “considerable controversy” around its value.

Colic affects as many as one in five families, and is diagnosed when a baby cries for more than three hours per day on more than three days per week.

Why it occurs is not well understood. Indigestion, trapped wind and intolerance to cows' milk have been identified as possible causes.

For the study, colicky babies were divided into three groups of 49. One received “minimal” acupuncture treatment, while another was given up to five 30-second needlings per session. The third group was not given any needle treatment.

“Significantly fewer infants who received acupuncture continued to cry/fuss excessively,” the researchers concluded.

This suggested “acupuncture may be an effective treatment option” for babies crying more than three hours a day.


File photo of an adult person receiving acupuncture. Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Criticism of the study was harsh. David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London, described the researchers' analysis of data as “incompetent” and “appalling”.

The study “certainly doesn't show that it [acupuncture] works”, he told the Science Media Centre.

“What parent would think that sticking needles into their baby would stop it crying? The idea sounds bizarre. It is.”

Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter said the study showed “almost the opposite of what the authors conclude”.

“We know that colicky babies respond even to minimal attention, and this trial confirms that a little additional TLC” – Tender Loving Care – “will generate an effect”.

A total of 388 acupuncture treatments were performed on the babies, the authors reported. On 200 occasions the infant did not cry at all after being pierced, 157 times they cried for up to a minute, and 31 times for more than that.

“The acupuncturists reported bleeding (a single drop of blood) on 15 occasions,” the authors said.

The treatment “may be considered ethically acceptable” if it managed to reduce excessive crying in the longer term, they added.

The report did not indicate what acupuncture points were used.

Article written by AFP's Mariètte Le Roux.