Birth Injury and Medical Malpractice
What is a Birth Injury?
Birth injuries are as unique as the children who suffer from them. Some cases, unfortunately, are actually unavoidable. Childbirth is a complex physical and medical process and unexpected things can go wrong. Even when medical professionals use the best techniques available and practice care and compassion the unexpected can occur. Even the world’s most skilled and highly-educated obstetricians can deliver a child with unpreventable birth injuries once in a while. But for many children who suffer harm during labor or delivery, the causes of that harm are far more complicated.
A birth injury is a damage to a child that, in most cases, is completely preventable. The most common types of preventable birth injuries are caused by:
- Improper use of birth-assistance tools, such as forceps or a vacuum extraction tool
- Pulling and/or twisting the infant incorrectly during labor and delivery
- Administration of the wrong amount or wrong type of medication to the mother during pregnancy and/or during labor and delivery
- Failure to properly monitor the infant for fetal distress, like ignoring or misreading the signs of that distress
- Failure to schedule and perform a necessary emergency cesarean surgery (C-section)
- Acceleration and stimulation of the birth
- Birth defects caused by pharmaceutical drug use during pregnancy
Clear human errors can and do, lead to severe forms of birth injury. Some children struggle through periods of oxygen deprivation which leads to extensive brain damage due to an obstetrician’s mistake. Other infants endure traumatic injuries as a result of careless practitioners attempting to perform assisted deliveries.
Some common types of birth injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Skull injuries
- Birth hypoxia or ischemia
- Brachial plexus palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Shoulder dystocia
- Spinal cord injury
- Klumpke’s paralysis
- Horner’s syndrome
- Bell’s palsy
- Internal organ damage
Just because your child has a birth injury this does not necessarily mean that a medical malpractice has occurred. In order for a medical provider to be guilty of medical negligence, or professional malpractice, it has to be shown that your medical provider failed to live up to the standard of care as established by the medical community, and as a result of that breach of the standard of care, damages resulted. Just having a bad delivery is not necessarily medical malpractice.
In addition, birth injuries should not be confused with birth defects, which usually occur before the delivery. Birth defects are usually caused by the use of certain medications, the mother’s use of illegal drugs or substances, alcohol or a genetic disorder.
What Causes a Birth Injury?
Birth injuries occur when something goes wrong during delivery, either from the baby-presenting breech, too large to move thru the birth canal or some other type of distress. How the medical team handles these situations can make the difference between a slight injury and a significant and possibly fatal injury. Not only can the medical team be held responsible if a problem is found to have occurred which they could have prevented, but also the medical practice and/or the hospital may be held responsible. Often times a medication has been found to be responsible when administered correctly and under proper conditions.
Obstetrical care providers have a responsibility to anticipate potential problems that are reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances, and where indicated, to intervene during labor and delivery in a timely manner so as to prevent harm. Negligence, which is the failure to act in accordance with the standard of care, is at the heart of preventable birth injury. Common causes of birth injury and birth trauma include:
- Miscalculation of the size of the fetus
- Pre- or post-mature delivery due to improper dating
- Infections and medical problems in the mother
- Infections and medical problems in the fetus
- Rh incompatibility
- Administration of improper medications during pregnancy and/or delivery
- Failure to monitor fetus and respond to fetal distress
- Abnormal presentation, including shoulder dystocia
- Failure to perform a timely c-section
- Improper use of delivery instruments
- Failure to give oxygen to newborns when needed (hypoxia birth injury)
What Steps to Take After You Discover a Birth Injury
If you suspect that your child has suffered a birth injury due to a medical provider’s negligence or carelessness, it is important that you take steps to protect your legal rights. Begin with gathering information and documenting the incident as best as you can, including:
- Making a list of the contact information for your treating physicians and other medical professionals, including your OB/GYN
- Making a list of the hospitals and medical facilities where you were treated or delivered your child
- Write down the medical procedures that were performed or offered to you, including ultrasounds, measuring of fundal height, etc.
- Create a timeline of all of the events that took place with as many details as you can
- List any prescription medications that you were taking during your pregnancy
- Write down any concerns that you may have had during pregnancy and labor & delivery
Once you have documented everything that you can, your next step is to contact an attorney who specializes in cases like yours. Because birth injuries fall under an extremely complex area of law known as medical malpractice, it is important that you select an attorney with experience and a proven track record winning medical malpractice cases.
While not all birth injuries may result in a lawsuit, the only way to know is to speak with a trained legal professional in the field of Birth Injury Malpractice.
These are difficult and emotional decisions and we will answer your questions and guide you thru the difficult process of deciding what if any action to take.