Premature baby, given 0% chance of survival, celebrates first birthday

Premature baby, given 0% chance of survival, celebrates first birthday

A baby boy who was said to have 0 percent odds of surviving after being born four months prematurely just celebrated his first birthday this month.

Richard Scott William Hutchinson is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most premature baby to survive to date. He was born weighing only 11.9 ounces, so tiny that he fit in the palm of a hand.

He was born on June 5, 2020, after just 21 weeks and two days in his mother’s womb.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Richard's parents were not allowed to stay overnight with their baby boy at the hospital, so they traveled an hour, every day for six months, to the Minneapolis hospital to be with him.

"We made sure we were there to give him support," his father Rick told Guinness World Records. "I think that helped him get through this because he knew he could count on us."

Dr. Stacy Kern, Richard's neonatologist at Children's Minnesota, likewise thinks the presence of Richard’s parents was vital in helping their baby boy to thrive. 

“We know that babies that are talked to and held do better and have better outcomes,” she said. “For them to be there, always holding him and talking to him, it absolutely played a huge role.”

The boy’s mother, Beth, told TODAY Parents that she and Rick had been trying to conceive for years, before she got pregnant and had a miscarriage in 2018. 

His parents were finally able to take him home in December 2020, after he spent more than six months in the hospital.

"The day Richard was discharged from the NICU was such a special day. I remember picking him up out of his crib and just holding him with tears in my eyes," said Dr. Kern.

"I couldn't believe this was the same little boy that once was so sick, that I feared he may not survive. The same little boy that once fit in the palm of my hand, with skin so translucent that I could see every rib and vessel in his tiny body. I couldn't help but squeeze him and tell him how proud I was of him."

While Richard still needs oxygen support at home, he is “slowly weaning off medical equipment.”

“He’s doing really well. He’s pretty much hitting all of his milestones,” said his mother. “He’s got two teeth now and a lot of personality. He’s a happy, smiley baby, and he loves to laugh.”

Richard’s parents invited family over and treated him to cake and ice cream for his first birthday, which “was a blast.”

Rick and Beth plan to start a nonprofit “to support other premature babies.”

The survival of Richard, while exceptional, brings to the forefront of the abortion discussion questions about the point of fetal viability, and even about whether viability should be used as a determinant of abortion law. The question carries added weight in the United States, since Roe v. Wade held that states cannot ban abortion before fetal viability.

Nineteen states, including Minnesota, consider fetal viability to be the point at which abortion is banned, although they legally mark viability at different points during gestation. 

While Casey v. Planned Parenthood, in 1992, determined that 24 weeks was the age of viability  — set back from 28 weeks during the less technologically advanced time of Roe v. Wade  — University of Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Edward Bell told the New York Times in 2015 that he considers 22 weeks to be the new age of viability.