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A Simple Test that Can Save a Newborn's Life....Why is Massachusetts Not Requiring It?

by Allyson P. on Wednesday, June 12, 2013

As I mentioned, last week, the Massachusetts state legislature heard testimony for legislation that would make screening newborns for critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) mandatory. Pulse oximetry tests — or “pulse ox” for short — measure oxygen levels and can detect serious heart defects, which are often missed during routine check-ups and are a leading cause of infant mortality. The screening is inexpensive, non-invasive and easy to perform.

One of our most dedicated advocates to the cause, Dr. Darshak Sanghavi who is an associate professor and chief of pediatric cardiology at UMass Medical School questioned in a recent article, why is Massachusetts not moving forward with requiring the test? Why when the Department of Public Health has the authority to do so without legislation are they not requiring all birthing facilities to perform the test?  It is a good question and one that we have as well.

Since 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended this routine testing and 15 other states require it, including New Hampshire, West Virginia, Arkansas and New Jersey. Hours after the law was passed in New Jersey, it saved a newborn’s life.  But Massachusetts has not been added to that list, but we can and should do better. As a leader in health care we should be making sure all babies being born in the Commonwealth are tested for CCHD.

Read more from Dr. Sanghavi at

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