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Mix-up leads to surgical procedure on wrong baby

LEBANON, Tenn. - The happiness of their son's birth was marred for a couple in Tennessee after they learned doctors mixed up their baby with another and mistakenly performed a surgical procedure on their healthy newborn.

"The baby was perfect, healthy and beautiful," new mom Jennifer Melton told CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF. Little Nate was delivered at University Medical Center in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Not long after the birth, her newborn went for what Melton thought would be a routine physical. A couple of hours later, he was brought back.

"At that point the nurse started to mention the procedure they had done that they had clipped his tongue," said Melton.

Somehow, a doctor without the parents' signed consent performed a surgical procedure on Nate that apparently was meant for another child.


Baby Nate in his mother's arms


"Essentially they took our child who was healthy from the room and cut his mouth," said Melton. "At that point I began to cry hysterically."

"There is no excuse on operating on the wrong baby, none," said Melton's attorney, Clint Kelly.

Kelly said the doctor performed a frenulectomy, which involves cutting a flap of skin from under the child's tongue. The procedure is a treatment for infants born with a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion. But little Nate's tongue was normal.

"It's recklessness. There's no excuse for cutting on a healthy child. There's no excuse for mixing up babies at a hospital," said Kelly.

The doctor didn't try to make any excuses. In a progress report from the hospital he wrote: "... I had asked for the wrong infant. I had likely performed the procedure on an infant different than the one I intended to ... and I admitted my mistake and apologized."

"They were sorry they made a mistake," said Melton. But she is still concerned about the long-term impact it could have on her child.

"We don't know if the child will have speech problems or eating problems. The concern here is this was a healthy baby that was supposed to leave the hospital, but instead was harmed by the hospital," said Kelly.

University Medical Center declined to comment specifically on what happened for this story, citing federal privacy regulations.