WHAT ARE BIRTH INJURIES?
Birth injuries are harm that usually occurs to the infant during labor and delivery. There are a number of types of birth injuries. The most devastating is a brain injury.
HOW DOES BRAIN INJURY TO A BABY OCCUR?
Brain injury occurs when the brain does not get enough oxygen while the infant is in the uterus. The medical term for this lack of oxygen is “fetal asphyxia”. When any cells of the body do not get oxygen they are harmed or die. Brain cells of the fetus are very susceptible to the lack of oxygen and start dying within minutes if not provided with a continual supply of oxygen.
Oxygen is normally picked up by the red blood cells of the infant at the placenta and then carried to the infant’s brain. Any interference with this process can lead to fetal asphyxia.
IS BRAIN DAMAGE TO THE INFANT PREVENTABLE?
In many cases it is preventable. The doctors and nurses have a monitor that tells them when the infant’s brain is not getting enough oxygen.
It is called a fetal heart monitor. Although it is called a fetal heart monitor in actuality its purpose is to monitor the infant’s brain. When the infant’s brain is not getting adequate oxygen the heart will slow because the infant’s brain controls the infant’s heart.
If the brain is not getting adequate oxygen the heart will slow. This is a warning sign that brain damage is about to occur. This is a critical point when the doctor and nurse must take immediate actions to prevent brain damage.
WHAT ACTIONS CAN THE DOCTORS AND NURSES TO TAKE TO PREVENT OR MINIMIZE THE INFANTS BRAIN DAMAGE?
After there are indicators that brain damage is about to occur it is the duty of the doctor and nurse to spring into action and take steps to reestablish oxygen to the infant’s brain. The actions could include applying oxygen to the mother, giving the mother medicines or fluids to bring the mother’s blood pressure up.
These maneuvers as well as other are aimed at increasing the amount of oxygen getting to the placenta and thus to the infant. If these or other measures are not effective in restoring oxygen to the infant’s brain a cesarean section must be performed immediately. Every second is important at this point.
The baby must be removed from the uterus because the mother is not able to provide oxygen through the placenta. The child must come out of the uterus in order to use its own lungs to obtain oxygen.
IF THERE IS BRAIN DAMAGE OR OTHER SERIOUS BIRTH INJURIES, IS THERE AUTOMATICALLY MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
Not necessarily. However, medical mistakes during childbirth are responsible for many brain-injured infants. Expert help is available for parents who believe a mistake by a doctor or nurse may have caused their child’s injury.
It is medical malpractice if reasonable procedures were not taken to monitor the mother and/or the child or if reasonable measures were not taken to prevent brain damage or other serious injuries. To determine if proper procedure was followed requires the medical records being reviewed by the attorney and medical experts.
In trying to determine the most likely cause of injury to an individual child, the lawyers and the medical experts will look at the exact injury to the child, the mother and the child’s medical history and the age of the onset of the disorder.
While trauma during labor and/or birth is one cause of brain damage that can lead to cerebral palsy, a small percentage of cerebral palsy is acquired in some children after birth. Acquired cerebral palsy may result from brain damage months or even years after birth. Brain damage can also be from a brain infection or a head injury. Such infections or head injuries may, or may not be preventable.
Only by having a medical-legal team investigate the case can parents have the peace of mind of knowing whether their child’s injury was preventable and whether it is compensable.
WHAT IS CEREBRAL PALSY ?
Sometimes, a child who suffers a birth trauma may develop cerebral palsy. There are currently over 500,000 individuals with this condition in the United States.
Cerebral palsy is a broad term used to describe a group of disorders that may have different causes. Cerebral palsy is manifested by the inability of the child to control the position and movement of the body. This is caused by damage to parts of the brain that control body movement. It is believed that lack of oxygen to the brain is one cause of cerebral palsy Cerebral palsy is often associated with seizures and /or abnormalities of speech, vision, and intellect.
Cerebral palsy usually appears in the first few years after birth. Generally, it does not worsen over time. Symptoms of cerebral palsy may vary in intensity from one person to another. While some people with cerebral palsy may exhibit profound handicaps, others may have only subtle impairment.
Although cerebral palsy cannot yet be cured, advanced medical research continues to yield improved treatment and technology to help the individual. Children with severe cerebral palsy may require millions of dollars to care for them throughout life.
Identification of infants with cerebral palsy very early in life gives them the best hope for developing to their full potential. Physical, psychological and behavior therapy can help the child’s body movement and speech as well as aiding in their emotional development. Medication, surgery and braces may either prevent or correct deformities and help them with associated medical problems.
WHAT OTHER BIRTH INJURIES CAN OCCUR BESIDES CEREBRAL PALSY ?
While unusual in occurrence, wide and varied mistakes can occur during the birth of an infant, sometimes resulting in catastrophic and permanent damage.
Other than cerebral palsy, another major birth injury is damage to the nerves that control the arms and hands of the infant. This injury is called brachial plexus damage. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that run out of the neck and into the arm.
These nerves can be stretched and damaged if improper delivery techniques are used. Injury to this group of nerves may cause paralysis of the entire arm and hand. This condition is called Erbs palsy when two particular nerves are damaged. Injury to this group of nerves occurs when the doctor did not anticipate a large infant and there is difficulty in delivery. If the obstetrician exerts excessive pull on the shoulders injury to this group of nerves occurs. If severe, the child will have permanent arm weakness.
The child may be injured by forceps or vacuum extraction used during the delivery. The child may have been to large to pass through the mother’s birth canal at all; the placenta may have separated from the uterine wall.
Other birth injuries include fractured collar bones, bleeding into the substance of the brain, paralysis of facial muscles, and spinal cord injury, certain viral or bacterial infections which are not properly treated, injury from the mother’s uterine rupture or preeclampsia.
Unfortunately, many of these injuries may create permanent health problems for the child . As a result, the parents may choose to seek legal assistance to pay for the child’s lifetime needs .
WHAT CAN A MEDICAL-LEGAL TEAM DO FOR A FAMILY WHOSE CHILD HAS BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED AROUND THE TIME OF BIRTH ?
Parents often want to know what happened to their child and whether the injury could have been prevented. Often, doctors and nurses refuse to answer these questions. To determine the truth about the events surrounding the child’s birth may take a lawyer and/or medical experts.
The lawyers at MULLIGAN & BANHAM will review your child’s medical records at NO CHARGE FOR ATTORNEYS FEES to determine whether or not they can help you . In some instances, medical experts will need to be consulted before an opinion can be finalized.
The parents of a disabled child negligently injured at birth have the right to seek answers about what happened as well as compensation for lifelong costs associated with raising a child with special needs: this may include lifetime medical expense, attendant care , wage loss, pain and suffering and many other related damages.
HOW MUCH CAN WE HOPE TO RECOVER?
By law in California, there is a limit of $250,000.00 in damages afforded for pain and suffering of the infant. In addition, the child is entitled to recover for all past and future medical expenses, loss of earning potential and the cost of someone to care for the child for a lifetime (if the injuries will likely prevent the child from becoming physically independent).
There is no limit on these damages. In addition, if the parents witnessed the birth and realized there was negligence causing injury to the infant, there may be another $250,000.00 for each parent for their own emotional distress. Mulligan, Banham & Findley has successfully obtained millions of dollars for children injured due to physicians’ negligence during delivery. See us for your free consultation.