Inquiry into death of newborn unable to determine cause

An inquiry into the death of a newborn child at Stettler Hospital was unable to determine how he died. Born a few week prematurely, at 36 weeks gestation, James Andrew Stahl died on Aug. 9, 2011, at 6:40 a.m., within 12 hours of his birth. A two-day public fatality inquiry was held on Sept. 19 and 20, 2013, in Stettler provincial court before Judge Jim Mitchell.

An inquiry into the death of a newborn child at Stettler Hospital was unable to determine how he died.

Born a few week prematurely, at 36 weeks gestation, James Andrew Stahl died on Aug. 9, 2011, at 6:40 a.m., within 12 hours of his birth.

A two-day public fatality inquiry was held on Sept. 19 and 20, 2013, in Stettler provincial court before Judge Jim Mitchell.

The final report to the minister of justice and the attorney general released on Wednesday said the medical cause of death was sudden unexplained death in infancy, but the manner is undeterminable.

Matilda Stahl, 31, was admitted to the Stettler hospital at 6:18 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2011. At 7:41 p.m., she gave birth to the child. At 6:41 a.m. the following morning, a nurse entered the mother’s private room and found the infant and the mother sharing the bed. Their was a space between the two. It was then that the infant was noted to be blue-coloured and no vital signs were apparent.

Attemps were made to resuscitate the infant but they were unsuccessful.

A post-mortem examination found the presence of two drugs: acetaminophen and quinine.

The medical examiner and toxicologist determined the acetaminophen was detected at a very low level and they felt its presence had no significance in the child’s death.

The quinine was not administered at the hospital and is not suggested to be administered to pregnant women. The examination determined the amount in the infant’s blood was low and the medical examiner could not rule out the possibility it may have contributed to the child’s death in some fashion.

There was no evidence presented to suggest co-sleeping. According to Alberta Office of the Medical Examiner, co-sleeping was a factor in 42 per cent of deaths classified as sudden infant death syndrome and was a factor in 74 per cent of the other deaths between 2005 and 2010. A total of 172 unexplained infant deaths were recorded in that time frame.

No recommendations were made in Mitchell’s report. However, it did say that, from testimony given, Alberta Health Services’ Safe Infant Sleep initiative is a positive, proactive effort to improve maternity care.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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