July 17, 1996 in Nation/World

Mother May Sue Over Breast-Feeding Mix-Up She Nursed Another Woman’s Baby Who Could Be Hiv-Positive

Associated Press

A woman who accidentally breast-fed someone else’s newborn plans to sue the hospital that mixed up the babies after she was told the other child could have the virus that causes AIDS, her lawyer said Tuesday.

The mother of the other baby has tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus, but it’s too early to tell if the baby has also, lawyer Ken Sobel said. Officials at Broward General Hospital refused to discuss specifics of the case.

Sobel said his client and her child have tested negative for HIV and he conceded the odds are low that she could contract HIV through breastfeeding. But he said the mix-up has caused serious problems for the woman, whose name he would not release.

“This mother has been very damaged,” Sobel said. “She has been deprived of the right to breast-feed her own child.”

They must be tested again in October after the six-month detection period passes, he said.

Sobel said the woman, whom he identified only as Jane Doe of Fort Lauderdale, delivered her baby in April at Broward General.

About nine hours later, a staffer brought a newborn to the woman’s room to be nursed. Because Ms. Doe was asleep, the staffer did not wake her to match mother’s and baby’s identification bracelets, instead putting the baby in a crib next to the mother, Sobel said.

Ms. Doe awoke and breast-fed the baby for a few moments before noticing it wasn’t hers and calling a nurse. She later breast-fed her own child at least twice before she was notified of the other woman’s HIV status, which means her child could have been exposed to HIV as well, Sobel said.

Children of HIV-infected mothers have an 8 percent to 25 percent chance of getting the infection, said Dr. Landis Crockett, the state health officer for disease control.

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