Hospitals stop automatically reporting babies born with drugs in system, because ‘racist’

A major Massachusetts hospital group has reviewed studies showing that “Black pregnant people” are more likely to be tested and reported for drug use than “white pregnant people,” and they have come up with a stunning solution: Stop automatically reporting to state child welfare agencies babies born with illegal substances in their systems.

In the name of “health equity,” Mass General Brigham announced on Tuesday that they are updating policies “that automatically trigger mandatory filings with child welfare agencies when a pregnant individual is engaged in treatment for substance use disorder, absent any other concerns for potential abuse or neglect.”

“As a part of our United Against Racism effort to achieve health equity for patients and communities across our system, we have prioritized health conditions with the greatest racial disparities in outcomes and are addressing policies that may unwittingly perpetuate structural racism,” the hospital group stated on its website.

“Substance use disorder (SUD) is a condition with significant racial and ethnic inequities, especially in the context of pregnancy, when more punitive approaches to substance use disproportionately affect Black individuals,” the medical experts continued. “Studies — including some within our system — have found that Black pregnant people are more likely to be drug tested and to be reported to child welfare systems than white pregnant people.”

The hospital group includes “obstetrics and gynecology wards at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Salem Hospital,” Boston.com reports.

“The change, coming to hospitals later this month, would require written consent for toxicology testing of pregnant people outside of emergencies,” according to the outlet. “That testing would also only be ordered if the results could change a doctor’s medical approach to their care.”

Sarah Wakeman, MD, senior medical director for Substance Use Disorder, Mass General Brigham, assured the public that the group’s move is based on “sound science” — a claim that is arguably hard to believe, considering the hospital can’t seem to admit that only women can get pregnant.

“Our new perinatal testing and reporting policy is the latest step in our efforts to address longstanding inequities in substance use disorder care and to provide compassionate, evidence-based support to families, while addressing substance use disorder as a treatable health condition,” Wakeman said. “This policy reflects an emerging consensus, based on sound science, that is being embraced by our peer institutions and was developed in coordination with a wide range of partners.”

Mass General points to a report from the Biden-Harris Administration that supports the policy change.

“Policymakers are increasingly modifying policies that create barriers to SUD treatment,” it states. “For example, the Biden-Harris Administration recently issued a reported [sic] titled Substance Use Disorder in Pregnancy: Improving Outcomes for Families.”

“According to Dr. Wakeman, several values emerged from that report, notably the assertion that having substance use disorder during pregnancy is not, by itself, child abuse or neglect,” the group explains. “Further, the report underscored that pregnant people who have SUD should be encouraged to access support and care systems, and that barriers to access should be addressed, mitigated, and eliminated where possible.”

“One important way to achieve this is to update policies that automatically trigger mandatory filings with child welfare agencies when a pregnant individual is engaged in treatment for substance use disorder, absent any other concerns for potential abuse or neglect,” according to Mass General. “Health equity leaders note that these policies create undue risk that pregnant people might be separated from their newborn infants and discourage them from accessing treatment. These policies disproportionately impact patients from historically marginalized populations.”

The hospital group continues:

In Massachusetts, state health officials recently released a report on access to maternal health services and noted that they would “update guidance for healthcare providers to share best practices and document the establishment of a dual reporting system whereby substance exposed newborns with no indication of neglect or abuse can be identified for support but not investigated for neglect or abuse.”

To that end, Mass General Brigham’s new policy, launching this month, makes several changes for providers: First, the new policy requires written consent for toxicology testing of any pregnant individual or infant outside of emergent situations. At the same time, it limits toxicology testing to circumstances where results will change the medical management of the pregnant person or infant.

 

Inexplicably, on X, many are more concerned with the well-being of the affected newborn babies than with “health equity.”

“Err on the side of made-up ‘racism,’ not on the side of babies going home with a drug addict who might be unfit to take care of them,” wrote one user.

“Ignoring and enabling a problem only makes it get worse,” the user noted. “It’s frightening what’s happened to hospitals under DEI. It’s ignorance on steroids.”

Melissa Fine

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