Medical Malpractice: Birth Injuries

When Homecoming Wasn’t Happy

Your long awaited baby was just born. But you came home without her, because there were birth injuries during the delivery. Not only are you and your family dealing with the grief that she’s injured, you’re anxious about how you will care for her and the long term effects of the injuries. You’re wondering if you should pursue legal action, but don’t have the time or emotional energy for it. You’re not even sure what the first step should be.

Medical malpractice in births is more common than anyone would like to consider. The incidence of birth injuries in the U.S. (based on statistics from the National Healthcare Quality Report, AHRQ, DHHS, 2003) is estimated to be at 7 per 1,000 live births. If you or someone you know is in this tragic circumstance, it’s important to get help. Birth injuries from medical malpractice often involve a lifetime of care costs—something the typical family can’t afford.

Malpractice and Standard of Care

Malpractice is a type of negligence—a failure to do what should have been done. The first step in finding out if you have a case for medical malpractice for your infant is to determine whether a medical standard of care was breeched. “Standard of care” is a legal term. It’s the foundation for how a malpractice suit is decided. Standard of care used to mean following what is “customary” in medical care (for most patients). Now, it means doing what the average, prudent provider would do for a certain type of patient in a certain clinical circumstance. A standard of care means that there are requirements, considered “standard” that the doctor and hospital staff are expected to perform during a birth. If these are not performed, there is negligence and the standard of care was breeched.

A lawyer who is experienced in birth injury medical malpractice cases will be able to help you determine if the standard of care was breeched.

The Most Common Birth Injuries Result From:

  • The umbilical cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck which can result in oxygen deprivation and fetal distress.
  • Shoulder dystocia, which happens when the baby’s head has been born, but one shoulder is stuck. It can result in oxygen deprivation, nerve damage to the baby’s shoulder, palsy, and brain damage. The most common results of should dystocia are a fractured clavicle (collar bone), a fractured humerus (the long bone of the upper arm), and bruising.
    • A brachial plexus injury happens when the collection of nerves around the neck and shoulder region are damaged, resulting in oxygen deprivation, death, or paralysis of the hand, upper arm, or upper and lower arm. Some cases of paralysis respond to physical therapy and others require long term treatment or surgery. About 200 to 400 babies will be born each year with permanent brachial plexus injuries. [Source]
  • Injuries from vacuum extraction or forceps used in delivery, which can result in scalp injuries, damage to the eyes, and bleeding between the scalp and skull that could lead to shock, seizures or death. The infant’s scalp is not fully attached to the skull and the skull itself is soft in an infant, making them particularly at risk for injuries from being pulled by the head during delivery. Using one of these techniques and having it fail, and then proceeding to the other technique results in more scalp and skull injuries and a higher death rate.

Any of the above injuries to the baby could also result in temporary or permanent injuries to the mother.

If you or your baby suffered a difficult delivery and you are wondering about long term effects and whether you should consider a malpractice suit, don’t wait and wonder. Call an experienced attorney for a consultation. You would not incur legal fees unless your case is won. Contact us to learn of what your child’s rights are in a delivery resulting in birth injuries.

Image courtesy of Praisaeng / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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