I read the Politics Daily article by Joanne Weiner, Preemies, Health Care Reform and the Cost-Benefit Conundrum and shook my head in frustration. It irks me when people attempt to place a dollar sign on the value of human life.
It is a well known fact that most hospital costs are over-inflated yet no one calls them to task. Premature babies may cost $26 billion dollars per year but how much money has been spent on prevention? We’ve done a lousy job in reducing the occurrence of premature labor or making pregnant moms aware of its dire consequences. For example:
• Back pain should not be ignored (because it could be a sign of early labor)
• Patients should be discouraged from drinking soda because they contribute to urinary tract infections
• Urinary tract infections should be treated aggressively because it can be a precursor to premature labor
• The cervix of pregnant women should be automatically measured after 14 weeks by ultrasound imaging to determine if it’s short (2.5 cm or less increases the incidence of preterm labor).
• Complaints of vaginal discharges should not be ignored (especially from lower socioeconomic women) because it could represent an sexually transmitted infection (another risk factor for premature labor)
• Pregnant women in stressful occupations (professional women included) should be given a leave of absence so their bodies are allowed to rest
• Steroids should be administered to women with preterm labor so their babies will be able to breathe
And the list could go on infinitum. The May 18th 2009 edition of People Magazine had a fabulous article about six amazing college students who were all born premature at less than 27 weeks. Their story not only brought me to tears but also inspired a blog, (see Miraculous Babies). The most premature baby of the group was born at 23 weeks and weighed 1.8 pounds. She is also a college student today.
So, unless you’ve worked as a nurse or a physician, please keep your untrained hands off the destinies our preemies. The “cost-benefits” of their future is priceless.