When Are Birth Injuries a Form of Medical Negligence?
When it comes to medical negligence, it’s not always a surgical error or misdiagnosis. In fact, these only make up a small amount of Medical Malpractice claims. There are the some instances where a surgical tool is left inside the patient’s body. Other times, a surgeon performs a procedure they’re not familiar with. While these result in serious bodily injury to the patient, they are uncommon. However, there are more frequently, cases where the victim is too young to fight for themselves. In birth injury cases, Medical Negligence is exponentially heinous. When a doctor and their staff fail to properly deliver a newborn, serious bodily injury results to the infant.
Within this Shaked Law Resource article, we’ll explain exactly why birth injury Medical Negligence causes injury to the tiniest patients. We’ll also provide Personal Injury insight on these type of injuries. We’ll investigate how negligence is another “invisible” area of Personal Injury law. Often, when a baby suffers a birth injury, the resulting disability may be permanent.
How does negligence factor into birth injuries?
Obstetric physicians are the first person to hold a newborn, bringing them into the world safely. These doctors have one of the most important jobs in medicine. Safely delivering a baby deserves the entire staff’s full attention. Ensuring the health and safety of mother and baby is not something a doctor can “go halfway” on.
When a doctor fails to properly perform their duties, this is negligence. Any lack of attention can be a negligent act. This may be in the form of improper delivery, C-section surgical error, or prolonging labor. When negligence occurs during childbirth, birth injuries occur. Birth injuries place a normally healthy baby at risk for complications at the time of birth.
What is a birth defect?
Many times an obstetrician will suspect a birth defect during pregnancy. This is a medical finding, with a diagnosis from a licensed doctor. At this point, an OB/GYN refers the expecting mother to a neonatal specialist. This is a doctor that specializes in birth defects. In these cases, the physician correctly hands off the case to a more capable expert. Handing off a case to a physician capable of treating the patient is within the reasonable duty of care. It ensures safety of both mother and child throughout pregnancy and birth.
Birth defects occur in-utero, during the gestational period (pregnancy). Birth defects are usually genetic, and are no one’s fault. New parents often seek out the best possible physicians upon learning their future child is suffering a birth defect. Birth defects are not doctor negligence, unlike birth injuries.
What is a birth injury?
Birth injuries occur at the time of birth. These injuries are numerous but all cause severe harm to the child. Birth injuries do not result from genetics or gestational problems. The injuries result due to physician error, and can leave a baby with permanent injury. These injuries are doubly devastating to new parents. 1) These injuries were not present prior to delivery. The baby was healthy! 2) The new parents are now dealing with lifelong financial expenses. Caring for a child with a disability is expensive, and insurance may not cover everything.
What are different types of birth injuries?
Birth injuries are numerous. Birth injuries are usually Medical Negligence. Legally, they require consultation with a Personal Injury lawyer that specializes in birth injury cases. Below, we’ll explain the types of birth injuries that occur due to the negligence of a doctor.
Macrosomia. This type of birth injury means the newborn is too large for their due date. When birth weight is determined to be more than 8 lbs, 13 oz, it’s often advisable to induce labor. If a doctor fails to uphold his duty to provide safe delivery, birth injury can result.
Cephalopelvic disproportion. This means the size of the mother’s pelvic region is not suitable for birth. In these cases, it’s negligence on the doctor’s part not to perform a C-section. This doubly ensures the safety of both mother and baby. Attempting to deliver the child by other means would result in brain injury to the child.
Instrumental deliveries. Using forceps or a vacuum can cause severe brain trauma to the infant. These cases result in Cerebral Palsy. There are multiple levels of this type of trauma. Some forms of Cerebral Palsy are so severe the child will not walk or speak.
Other birth injuries
- Babies born before 37 weeks
- Abnormal delivery positions (breech, face down)
- Excessive pulling during delivery (yanking the infant from the mother can harm the limbs, brain, and spinal cord).
- Prolonging labor beyond what’s reasonable. At a certain point, the baby must be delivered via C-section.
What is the criteria for medical negligence?
The criteria for birth injury Medical Negligence is the same as for any Medical Negligence cases. However, it’s usually more traumatic due to the victim being a newborn baby.
1. A doctor-patient relationship. The patient must see the doctor and have a rapport with them. This can mean seeing the same physician(s) throughout the pregnancy. In cases of birth injuries, the doctor and patient may have a great relationship until the delivery. Upon delivering the baby, injury occurs due to doctor error. It’s at that point that Medical Negligence is an implication.
2. A negligent doctor. A doctor who uses poor judgement in delivering a newborn is a negligent physician. Prolonging labor, yanking, pulling, or using forceps to deliver the child are all negligent acts. Also, a doctor suffering fatigue can make irreversible errors. Negligence can occur when a doctor rushes through the delivery because “they have somewhere else to be”. This is not only negligence, but reckless. This results in missing any serious injury to the child preventable with more attention.
3. The physician’s carelessness causes physical harm to the patient. Sometimes the physician ignores the patient or skips the details that could’ve lead them to correctly diagnosing a birth defect. In these cases, there may be grounds for a Medical Negligence lawsuit. In a case of misdiagnosis, carelessness is often a factor. Misinterpreting lab reports, failing to order correct imaging, or over prescribing medication can all be negligent actions.
If a birth defect is present, and a doctor fails to pick up on it, this can possibly be negligence or misdiagnosis. It’s important to consult with a lawyer in these cases, because some birth defects can receive treatment prior to delivery. That is, if the doctor diagnoses them properly.
The Personal Injury perspective clients can trust
The Shaked Law Firm Blog focuses on fact-based, well-researched and informational articles. This article’s intention is to help those pursuing litigation after a birth injury with concrete facts. While all medical information requires discussion with a licensed physician, our lawyers have the most legal experience.