Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries
In spite of the physical exertion, giving birth is, obviously, a joyous occasion. And, in many cases, words cannot explain the sheer joy that accompanies childbirth. Mothers have an expectation that they and their child will be handled with care, with the health and safety of both placed at the forefront of all decisions made during the delivery process. However, in some cases, the child is born with a birth injury that was caused by a healthcare professional. Further, while this does not dampen the joy of having a child, there are costs, relating to the birth injury, that now must be borne, and these costs should be borne by the persons or entities that caused them. Currently, a Georgia hospital, facing its second malpractice trial in three months, settled a lawsuit in which a family claimed that two hospital physicians caused brain damage and developmental delays to their newborn daughter. A discussion of medical malpractice, generally and specifically applied to birth injuries, as well as some common birth injuries that may be caused by medical malpractice, will follow below.
Generally, medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, occurs when a hospital or surgery center, or doctor or other health care professional, causes an injury to a patient. In the case of birth injuries, the malpractice primarily manifests itself in an improper delivery, but may also occur in improper delivery preparation, negligent anesthetic administration, or any other aspect of the delivery process. To prevail in a medical malpractice case, the parent (or estate) of an injured child must prove the following:
- That the hospital or healthcare professional had a duty to perform according to a specific standard of care. Such standards of care, in this instance, are generally-accepted standards by which similarly trained medical personnel must abide, and can essentially be stated as that standard to which a healthcare professional with similar skills and experience would do in a same type of situation. In the case of birth defects, the standard of care will be measured according to an ordinary healthcare professional versed in childbirth.
- The healthcare professional did not perform according to the standard of care. This may be proved through evidence comparing the standard of care with the way in which the healthcare professional, in fact, did perform.
- An injury, resulting from the fact that the healthcare professional did not perform according to the standard of care.
- Damages which occurred as a result of the injury. Further, these damages must be discernable, such as disability, additional medical treatment, suffering, etc.
Type of Birth Defects That May Be the Result of Medical Malpractice
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6-8 of every 1,000 infants born in the United States are born with a birth injury. The following, however, are some of the more common birth injuries that can, in some cases, be attributed to medical malpractice:
- bleeding underneath the cranial bones;
- swelling of the soft tissue of the child’s scalp, which may occur as the child travels through the birth canal in deliveries by vacuum extraction;
- paralysis, which may be caused by pressure on a child or the improper use of forceps during delivery;
- bruising, which may be the result passing through the birth canal, or through the misuse of forceps;
- brachial palsy, which occurs when the nerves that feed the arms and hands of a child are injured, may occur when there is difficulty in delivering the child’s shoulder; and
- clavicle or collarbone fracture, the most common fracture during delivery, may occur also when there is difficulty delivering the shoulder or during a breech delivery.
Seek Legal Advice
Birth injuries are a tragedy no parent or child should have to endure. If your child suffered an injury at birth, and the birth injury could be the result of improper medical care, the experienced birth injury lawyers at Pita Weber & Del Prado are here to help you. We have the experience to determine whether your child’s injuries, and his/her suffering, is, in fact, the result of improper medical care. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.