New law to inform new parents of screening options
By Michaela Gibson Morris
Proposed state legislation, prompted by a Lee County family's tragedy, would provide parents more information about options for screening their newborn children for congenital disorders.
State Reps. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, and Eloise Scott, D-Tupelo, have introduced a bill that would require new parents to receive information about supplemental screening for newborns.
"It's great preventive legislation," Holland said. "If one life is saved, it's worth it."
The state already tests newborns for four disorders and is in the process of adding a fifth, but there are about 30 other detectable disorders like the one that led to the August death of 2-year-old Ben Haygood of Belden.
Haygood had medium chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenate Deficiency, also called MCAD, a metabolic genetic disorder that prevented his body from processing fat stores, said his mother, Robin Haygood. The disorder did not reveal itself until Ben came down with a mild stomach virus. He died about 12 hours after throwing up for the first time; there was no warning he was seriously ill.
Haygood said she considers the proposed legislation a vital first step in preventing other families from suffering as hers has.
"That's a tremendous step forward from where we are now," Haygood said. "A choice is more than we ever had."
If Ben Haygood had been screened for the disorder, he could have easily been treated through diet and prompt, specific medical attention, she said.
The proposed bill would require physicians and health care workers attending a newborn to notify the child's parents about the availability of additional newborn screening.
The bill does not mandate the additional screening, Holland said. It would require the State Department of Health to develop materials about the supplemental newborn screening to be used by physicians and other health care professionals.
Holland, who heads the subcommittee that will first vote on the measure, said he does not anticipate the bill will run into problems.
"It won't cost the state a thing," he said.
The state of Tennessee, which does the mandated newborn screening for Mississippi, does not have the equipment to screen for MCAD and 29 other congenital disorders. Two private labs offer the screening Baylor Medical Center in Dallas and NeoGen Screening in Bridgeville, Penn. They offer supplemental screening for $25 to $50.
Currently parents working with their physicians have contacted the labs directly and requested a screening kit, Haygood said.
At least two local pediatricians are already addressing the expanded screening with their patients' parents, Haygood said.
States with testing programs typically find MCAD at about the same rate they find PKU, the only disorder screened for in all 50 states, about 1 in 10,000.