4 Common Birth Injuries Caused by Medical Malpractice
Babies are every parent’s most cherished treasure. They are a cause of happiness and signify the birth of a family. However, babies are incredibly vulnerable, and equally fragile. And doctors sometimes make mistakes. It is important for all parents to be fully aware of the different types of issues that can occur from the error of healthcare professionals, so you can protect your baby and ensure they enjoy a good quality of health. The following sections elaborate on the most common types of medical malpractice cases in which babies fall victim, and how you can prevent it.
A birth injury may occur when a physician or hospital nurse provides substandard care during the pregnancy or the birthing process. Devastating effects like paralysis, brain damage, and even death may happen to the mother and/or child. Other birth injuries that may occur include:
- Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)
- Coumadin-related problems
- Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
- Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus injury
- Injury due to forceps
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia
- Learning disabilities
- Nerve damage, including Erb’s Palsy
- Brain damage
- Spinal cord injury
- Bone fractures
- Bruising and skin irritation
- Internal bleeding
- Shoulder dysplasia
A birth injury may also be the result of the failure of the physician or hospital nurse to maintain cleanliness, communicate a patient’s condition to physicians, monitor and assess conditions, and intervene in a timely fashion.
In most malpractice cases, you have two years from the time you knew or ought to have known that the instance of malpractice occurred to file a claim. With a young child that statutory period is extended to the eighth birthday, as children may not be able to understand or express that there is something wrong with them.
- A birth injury occurs when doctors and/or nurses provide substandard care.
- With babies, there is a statutory period extending to the 8th birthday within which to file a malpractice claim.
Some premature babies can develop abnormal blood vessels in the retina, causing the retina to detach and possibly leading to blindness. Retinopathy of prematurity is sometimes self-corrective, but other cases call for surgery. If a physician catches ROP soon after birth, an ophthalmologist can use a laser to prevent the abnormal blood vessels from growing, scarring, contracting, and detaching the retina.
In some cases, blindness from ROP is avoidable with proper screening and treatment. If your newborn becomes blind because of ROP, the healthcare provider can be liable. It will be necessary for you to consult with an expert Pediatric Ophthalmologist. Avoidable causes of blindness from ROP include:
- Exposing newborns to toxins
- Improper use of oxygen therapy following birth
- Failing to provide timely, regular eye exams to high-risk infants
- Failing to diagnose retinopathy of prematurity when symptoms of this condition are clearly present
- Failing promptly or adequately to treat retinopathy of prematurity
- ROP occurs in premature babies, and is sometimes self-corrective.
- If your newborn becomes blind, the healthcare provider can be liable.
If a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or dosage, you may have a claim. If you think a doctor has prescribed you the wrong medication or dosage, confront the doctor immediately. Your concern at this point is your health, not a malpractice suit.
According to the Food and Drug administration, prescription medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States. A physician or pharmacist might be liable for:
- Prescribing the wrong drug
- Prescribing the wrong dose
- Prescribing the wrong concentration
- Administering a drug too quickly
- Administering a drug by an improper method
- Being unaware of the other medications the patient was taking at the same time
- Failing to warn a patient of an expected drug interaction risk
One of the most commonly misused medications is Coumadin, also called warfarin, an anti-coagulant or blood thinner used to prevent the body from forming dangerous blood clots. Patients who have atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) or artificial heart valves often take Coumadin. While effective in preventing strokes, heart attacks, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), embolisms, and blood clots, the misuse of Coumadin can put patients’ lives at risk. Doctors must carefully monitor patients taking Coumadin. There is a very thin margin between a patient being helped or harmed by Coumadin. If the level of the medication is too low, the patient is at risk for blood clot formation, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms. If the level is too high, the patient is at risk for severe internal bleeding, hemorrhagic stroke, and death.
Coumadin is of particular danger to pregnant or breastfeeding women. It can cause birth defects in an unborn baby that may include:
- Central nervous system defects
- Spontaneous abortion
- Ocular defects
- Fetal warfarin syndrome
Because of the serious need to monitor Coumadin levels, any negligence in this could make a physician liable for damages and suffering.
Other medications that are prescribed wrongly include Avandia for diabetes and the anti-inflammatory Vioxx (discontinued).
Pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists alike may be liable for damages. The pharmacist filling your prescription also has an obligation to fill your prescription correctly and answer any questions you have. You may have a claim due to preventable errors including:
- Poor handwriting on prescriptions
- Similar-sounding names of prescription drugs
- Confusion about correct dosage amounts and instructions
- Confusing labeling and package content on both over-the-counter and prescription drugs
- Use of abbreviations
Pharmacists are medical experts, too, though. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions.
- If a doctor has prescribed you the wrong medication, your first priority is your health, and not a malpractice suit.
- Always be sure to ask your pharmacist questions when you pick your prescriptions up.
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a gastrointestinal disease, mostly affecting premature infants where infection and inflammation cause destruction of the bowel or part of the bowel. This disease is the most common and serious gastrointestinal disorder among premature infants. It usually occurs during the first two weeks of life, after feeding has begun. Infants with this disease are more prone to infection and have some difficulty with blood and oxygen circulation and digestion.
The symptoms of NEC may include:
- Poor tolerance to feedings
- Bloating and tenderness
- Bile-colored vomit
- Bloody stool
- Redness of the abdomen
- Increase in stool
- Lack of stool
- Necrotizing enterocolitis is a gastrointestinal disease that mostly affect premature babies.
- Be sure to watch out for the above symptoms after you begin feeding your baby.