Hospital Performs Surgery On The Wrong Newborn In Nightmarish Mix-Up

by Ashley Austrew
Originally Published: 

Parents are livid after a Tennessee hospital performed surgery on the wrong newborn.

Hospital mix-ups are something every new parent worries about, but this story of a Lebanon, Tennessee doctor who performed surgery on the wrong baby is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Jennifer Melton was in recovery after giving birth to her son, Nate, when a nurse came to take the baby for what Melton thought was a routine check-up. Nate returned a few hours later and the nurse started explaining the details of his frenulectomy. A frenulectomy is a procedure that involves cutting the flap of skin under the tongue and is used to treat babies who have restricted range of motion in their tongues, otherwise known as a tongue tie. The only problem is, Nate didn’t need a frenulectomy.

A doctor had mistakenly performed the procedure on Nate — without a signed parental consent form — when it was actually intended for a different baby. “The baby was perfect, healthy and beautiful,” Melton told WTVF. “Essentially they took our child who was healthy from the room and cut his mouth. At that point I began to cry hysterically.”

The doctor who performed the surgery took full responsibility for the mix-up, writing in the official hospital report, “I had asked for the wrong infant. I had likely performed the procedure on an infant different than the one I intended to . . . and I admitted my mistake and apologized.”

Still, that’s not good enough for Nate’s parents, who are concerned now that their baby will suffer longterm consequences from the accidental surgery. Their attorney, Clint Kelly, said, “We don’t know if the child will have speech problems or eating problems… It’s just recklessness. There’s no excuse for cutting on a healthy child. There’s no excuse for mixing up babies at a hospital.”

Frenulectomies are often performed on newborns to remedy latching issues during breastfeeding, and according to Stanford Medicine, they’re usually painless and take less than a second. It’s unlikely Nate will suffer longterm consequences, but the biggest concern is how hospital security measures could fail so spectacularly that a surgical procedure could be performed on the wrong newborn, and how the doctor wouldn’t realize quickly that Nate didn’t need surgery.

In the dicussion on Popsugar’s Facebook page, a woman in the medical field wrote:

“I work for ENTs who do lots of frenulectomies. When you look at the child’s mouth and examine it, you can tell they are tongue tied. I do not know why a doctor would do a surgery on a child not needing this procedure. When he opened the child’s mouth and looked at the tongue before he started cutting, he could see the baby was not tongue tied. So why did he start cutting anyways?”

Simple surgery or not, the Melton’s attorney is absolutely correct when he says there’s no excuse for what happened to Nate. New parents should be able to rest and recover peacefully in the hospital without fear that their babies will be subjected to any unwanted treatments or procedures, and it’s a failure at every level that something like this was able to take place. Hopefully Melton gets some answers and the hospital is able to correct whatever went wrong so something this disturbing never happens again.

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