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Baby dies after doctors accidentally administer laughing gas instead of oxygen


An inquest is looking into how an infant, John Ghanem, was given a dose of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) instead of oxygen in an Australian hospital.

Sources said the baby boy died less than an hour after the fatal error as doctors frantically tried to get him breathing at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital in Sydney, Australia, in July 2016.

On what would have been his fifth birthday, an inquest at Lidcombe Coroners’ Court was told the oxygen and nitrous oxide pipes in one of the operating theatres had been mislabelled years before.

UK Metro reported that the two pipes were later connected to the neonatal unit without being properly checked – a mix-up that went unnoticed for more than a year.

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The medical error also left another newborn baby with significant brain damage when she was similarly ventilated with nitrous oxide two months before John’s birth, The Australian reports.

John’s mother, Sonya, underwent an emergency caesarean on the recommendation of her obstetrician on July 13, 2016.

After her delivery, the newborn was placed in a resuscitation area after doctors noticed a loose part of his umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck and he was not breathing properly.

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He was also fitted with a mask to pump air into his lungs but he failed to respond.

So the medics hooked it up to the nitrous oxide pipe that they mistakenly thought was 100% oxygen.

Unfortunately, John died after being ventilated with laughing gas being piped in from the theatre’s gas panel.

The baby’s death shocked the hospital’s resuscitation team who thought they had done everything correctly.

The error was only picked up by another doctor who developed a hunch after he noticed striking parallels between the incidents at the hospital and the death of a boy in India due to a mix-up with medical gas.

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According to Engineer Stuart Clifton, who was mandated with the task of investigating the case in 2017, the gas mix-up would have been discovered immediately had the required tests been done.

He told the inquest that: ‘The simple fact is that had they done the tests, then the result, being this investigation, would not have been required.’

Medical experts also told the court that a gas identification test takes less than two minutes to complete.