Common Medical Errors That Lead to Birth Injuries and Defects

Doctors under a light. On the side, it says, common medical errors that lead to birth injuries and defects

Welcoming a new child into the world is usually a joyous occasion, but sometimes medical errors during pregnancy or birth can lead to birth injuries and defects. These issues can range from mild to severe, causing long-term consequences for the child and potentially the mother. Identifying common birth injuries, understanding the medical negligence that may cause them, and knowing how to pursue a medical malpractice claim is essential for affected families. If you’re in this difficult situation, seeking legal assistance from experienced professionals, such as the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers of Raynes & Lawn, can be crucial.

Key Takeaways

  • Birth injuries and defects can result from medical negligence during pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Common birth injuries include cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, bone fractures, shoulder dystocia, persistent pulmonary hypertension, and hypoxic or anoxic brain injuries.
  • Medical negligence contributing to these injuries may involve failure to monitor, improper use of tools, medication errors, delayed diagnosis, and delayed cesarean section.
  • Parents can pursue a medical malpractice claim if their child suffered birth injuries due to medical negligence.
  • Seeking legal counsel from experts in medical malpractice, like the Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers of Raynes & Lawn, is essential for affected families.

What Are The Common Types of Birth Injuries and Defects?

Birth injuries and defects encompass a wide range of medical conditions that can affect newborns, resulting from medical negligence or complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Some of the most common types of birth injuries and defects include:

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is among the most common birth injuries and is a neurological condition that results from damage to the developing brain, usually during pregnancy or childbirth. It often causes impaired motor function and uncontrollable movements, which can significantly impact a child’s quality of life.

Brachial Plexus Injuries (BPI)

These injuries result from trauma to the nerves and muscles of the upper arm and shoulder during childbirth. Two specific conditions within BPI are Erb’s palsy, which affects the upper arm and shoulder, and Klumpke’s palsy, which affects the lower arm and hand. These injuries can lead to loss of function and weakness in the affected areas.

Serious Bone Fractures

During childbirth, difficult or negligent deliveries may lead to fractures in a newborn’s bones. While fractures are generally treatable, improper management and inadequate medical care can lead to these fractures healing incorrectly. When bones heal improperly, children may experience physical limitations and discomfort as they grow.

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is a traumatic and challenging condition that occurs when a baby’s head passes through the birth canal but their shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. This situation can cause significant distress for both the mother and the child. For infants, shoulder dystocia can result in serious injuries, including:

  • Cerebral Palsy: As a consequence of oxygen deprivation during the ordeal.
  • Brachial Plexus Injury: The nerves controlling the arm can be stretched or damaged due to excessive force applied to release the baby’s shoulder.
  • Brain Damage: Prolonged lack of oxygen during shoulder dystocia can lead to brain damage, impacting a child’s physical and cognitive development.
  • Wrongful Death: In severe cases, the infant may not survive the ordeal.

For mothers, shoulder dystocia can lead to complications such as severe bleeding (hemorrhage) and uterine rupture.

Hypoxic or Anoxic Brain Injuries

Hypoxic and anoxic brain injuries occur when a doctor fails to monitor the vital signs of the mother and child during labor and delivery. These injuries result from either partial or complete oxygen deprivation, which can have far-reaching consequences. Oxygen deprivation can harm brain cells, leading to extensive brain injury that affects a child’s physical and mental development. The severity of these injuries can vary, but even partial oxygen deprivation can result in long-term impairments. Immediate recognition and intervention are critical to prevent or mitigate these injuries.

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of a Newborn (PPHN)

PPHN is a life-threatening condition that affects a newborn’s ability to breathe and maintain proper oxygen levels in the blood. It arises from pulmonary artery failure, making it challenging for the baby to adapt to breathing outside the womb. While multiple factors can contribute to PPHN, including medication errors and oxygen deprivation, the most significant injuries typically result from a delayed diagnosis and improper treatment immediately after birth. Prompt recognition and intervention, such as the administration of oxygen and other medical therapies, are essential for improving outcomes and preventing permanent injuries in infants with PPHN.

What Kinds of Medical Negligence May Cause Birth Injuries and Defects?

Healthcare providers, including obstetricians, gynecologists, and neonatal doctors, must adhere to the medical standard of reasonable care during pregnancy and childbirth to ensure a safe delivery. However, negligence at any point during this process can result in birth injuries. Some common types of medical negligence that can cause birth injuries include:

1. Failure to Monitor Mother and Infant During Labor

Monitoring the mother and infant’s well-being is a fundamental aspect of prenatal and labor care. Healthcare providers must closely observe vital signs, such as fetal heart rate and maternal blood pressure, for signs of distress or emergencies. Failure to do so can lead to preventable birth injuries.

Here is an example: Healthcare providers neglect to monitor the baby’s decreasing heart rate during labor, thereby missing the signs of distress that require intervention. This negligence resulted in oxygen deprivation, which, in turn, lead to brain damage.

2. Improper Use of Forceps or Vacuum Extractors

Some complex deliveries require the use of forceps or vacuum extractors to aid the baby’s passage through the birth canal. However, the safe application of these tools demands skill and precision. An improperly trained healthcare provider may exert excessive force when using forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery. Inadequate training or negligence during their use can lead to severe brain and neck injuries in newborns.

3. Medication Errors

Expectant mothers may require specific medications or supplements to ensure the health of their baby during pregnancy. Prescribing errors, including incorrect dosages or medications known to cause birth defects, can have serious repercussions.

4. Failure to Diagnose Illness or Dangerous Conditions Before or After Birth

During pregnancy and postpartum, the timely diagnosis of maternal and fetal conditions is crucial. Detecting potential health risks and illnesses and taking appropriate preventive measures or treatment is a key responsibility of healthcare providers.

For instance, if a pregnant woman exhibits signs of gestational diabetes, it is vital for healthcare providers to diagnose the condition early and initiate necessary interventions. Neglecting to diagnose and treat this condition can lead to birth injuries, including cerebral palsy, due to complications from untreated gestational diabetes.

Another example would be if the expecting mother senses something wrong with her baby prior to delivery but the doctors ignore it, only to later find that a blood clot had formed in the umbilical cord, leading to a birth defects.

5. Delayed Cesarean Section or Failure to Order a C-Section

In certain situations, a cesarean section (C-section) may be necessary for the safety of both the mother and child. Prolonged or challenging labor can increase the risk of birth injuries. Failure to recognize when a C-section is needed, or undue delay in performing one, can result in various complications for both the infant and the mother.

What About Injuries to the Mother Before, During, or After Delivery?

Injuries to the mother before, during, or after delivery can be considered medical negligence or malpractice under certain circumstances. It’s important to understand that healthcare providers are expected to adhere to a medical standard of reasonable care when dealing with pregnant women, both during pregnancy and childbirth. When healthcare professionals deviate from this standard of care and their actions or omissions result in injuries to the mother, medical malpractice may be involved. Here are some instances where maternal injuries may be considered medical negligence or malpractice:

Before Delivery

  • Failure to Diagnose or Properly Treat Pregnancy-Related Conditions: During pregnancy, certain medical conditions may arise, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or infections. Healthcare providers must monitor the mother’s health and promptly diagnose and treat any complications that may occur. Failure to do so can result in injuries to the mother and may be considered medical negligence.
  • Medication Errors: If a healthcare provider prescribes medications to the mother during pregnancy, such as prenatal vitamins or medications for pregnancy-related conditions, errors in prescribing, dosage, or administration can lead to injuries. Medication errors can be indicative of medical malpractice.

During Delivery

  • Complications During Vaginal Delivery: Vaginal deliveries carry certain risks, and healthcare providers must respond appropriately to any complications that may arise. Failure to take timely and effective actions to address issues like fetal distress, excessive bleeding, or shoulder dystocia can lead to maternal injuries and could be considered medical malpractice.
  • Surgical Errors During Cesarean Sections: In cases where a cesarean section (C-section) is performed, surgical errors can occur, resulting in injuries to the mother. These errors may include improper incisions, damage to surrounding organs, or inadequate post-operative care.
  • Negligent Use of Instruments: The use of delivery instruments such as forceps or vacuum extractors during childbirth must be performed with care and precision. Improper or negligent use of these instruments can cause injuries to the mother.

After Delivery

  • Failure to Diagnose and Treat Postpartum Complications: After giving birth, mothers may experience complications such as infections, hemorrhage, or postpartum preeclampsia. Healthcare providers must promptly diagnose and treat these conditions. Failure to do so can result in maternal injuries and could be considered medical negligence.
  • Inadequate Postpartum Care: Mothers require careful monitoring and care during the postpartum period. Inadequate postpartum care, including the failure to provide necessary follow-up appointments, may lead to injuries or complications.

It’s important to note that not all injuries to the mother will automatically be classified as medical negligence or malpractice. Each case is unique, and determining whether malpractice occurred involves assessing the specific circumstances, the standard of care provided, and the causal relationship between the healthcare provider’s actions or omissions and the injuries sustained by the mother.

Pursuing a Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Claim

When a child has suffered birth injuries due to medical negligence, parents have the legal right to pursue a medical malpractice claim. This legal avenue allows parents to seek accountability and compensation for the pain and suffering their child has endured as a result of preventable medical errors. Successfully pursuing a birth injury medical malpractice claim involves several crucial steps:

1. Consulting with a Birth Injury Attorney

The first and most crucial step in pursuing a medical malpractice or birth injury claim is to seek legal counsel. Choosing an experienced medical malpractice or birth injury lawyer in Philadelphia is key. An attorney with knowledge in these complex areas of law will provide you with more than guidance. They will assess the merits of your case and help you understand your rights and legal options.

2. Reviewing the Circumstances of the Injury

Your attorney will conduct a comprehensive review of the circumstances and details surrounding the birth injury. This review includes a thorough examination of medical records, expert opinions, and witness statements, if necessary. The goal is to determine whether medical malpractice occurred and whether there is a strong case to pursue.

3. Gathering Evidence

Building a compelling case requires the collection of relevant evidence. Your attorney will work diligently to gather all pertinent documentation, which may include medical records, expert opinions from qualified healthcare professionals, statements from witnesses, and any other evidence that can demonstrate that the healthcare provider’s negligence was the direct cause of the birth injury.

4. Negotiations

In most cases, the next step involves negotiating with the healthcare provider’s insurance company to reach a fair and just settlement. This process can be lengthy and intricate, as it aims to provide comprehensive compensation for your child’s immediate and future medical care, ongoing needs, and the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured. Your attorney will use their experience and legal expertise to advocate for a settlement that addresses the full scope of your child’s needs.

5. Filing a Lawsuit

In instances where negotiations with the insurance company do not result in a satisfactory resolution, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit. While litigation can be a challenging and time-consuming process, it may be necessary to secure the best possible outcome for your child’s future. Filing a lawsuit is often the last resort to ensure that your child receives the necessary compensation to address their medical care, rehabilitation, and the overall impact of the birth injury.

Possible Damages in a Birth Injury Malpractice Case in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, as in other states, a birth injury medical malpractice case can seek compensation for various damages resulting from the negligence of healthcare providers. While each case is unique, damages typically fall into several categories, including:

  • Medical Expenses: This includes past and future medical costs associated with the birth injury, such as hospital stays, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and assistive devices.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured by the child due to the birth injury.
  • Lost Earning Capacity: In cases where the child’s injuries result in reduced future earning capacity, compensation may be awarded.
  • Rehabilitation and Therapy Costs: Expenses related to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other rehabilitation services that the child may require.
  • Home Accommodations: The cost of making necessary modifications to the home to accommodate the child’s special needs.
  • Special Education Expenses: The expenses associated with special education and tutoring for the child.
  • Punitive Damages: In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded to punish particularly egregious behavior by the healthcare provider.
  • Legal Costs and Attorney’s Fees: The costs of pursuing the medical malpractice claim, including attorney’s fees and court expenses.
  • Future Medical Care: Compensation to cover the child’s anticipated future medical expenses, such as ongoing medical treatments, surgeries, medications, and adaptive equipment.
  • Non-Economic Damages: Compensation for non-economic losses, such as the loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and mental anguish.

These damages aim to provide financial support and resources to ensure the best possible quality of life for your child and family in the wake of a birth injury caused by medical negligence.

Contact the Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers of Raynes & Lawn

When a joyous occasion like childbirth turns into a nightmare due to birth injuries caused by medical negligence, parents have the right to seek accountability and compensation. Pursuing a birth injury medical malpractice claim is essential to provide the best possible care for an injured child and secure their future. The experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers of Raynes & Lawn are dedicated to helping families navigate the complexities of such claims, working tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcomes for their clients. If your child has suffered a birth injury due to medical negligence, contact Raynes & Lawn today by calling 1-800-535-1797 or filling out the contact form to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.


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