Birth injuries are often some of the most devastating injuries that a family can experience. When a healthy baby is expected, but preventable injuries occur due to the actions of negligent medical personnel, families are often left with crippling medical costs with no end in sight and an entire lifetime of wondering what could have been. A Chicago personal injury attorney sees cases where infants have had their entire futures destroyed when medical staff failed to act appropriately and provide the minimum standard of care that any other doctor would be expected to give. However, when this occurs, many families turn to the legal system for help. One Pennsylvania family recently found justice and peace for their child’s future when she was awarded $32 million for the injuries she sustained during her birth.
Circumstances surrounding the injury
According to the Daily Times, the baby’s mother had a normal, healthy pregnancy and prior to the birth injury, physicians did not have any concerns for the health of the baby girl. The attorney for the family claimed that while the mother was in labor, the baby’s heart rate dropped to dangerous levels but the nurses on duty failed to notify the doctor. The heart rate dropped at 1:07 am from 150 beats per minute, which is healthy and normal for infants, to 60 beats per minute. The most likely reason for the drop was a kink in the umbilical cord that prevented the proper amount of oxygen from reaching the child’s brain.
Despite noticing the precipitous drop, two nurses failed to notify the mother’s doctor. At 1:20 a.m. the doctor entered the room and saw the heart rate and immediately instructed the nurses to notify their supervisor that they needed an anesthesiologist so that the baby could be delivered via emergency cesarean section. However, neither nurse contacted the supervisor until nearly 10 minutes later and an anesthesiologist could not be located until another 7 minutes had passed. The infant was finally delivered at 1:49 a.m., 42 minutes after the baby first showed signs of distress.
As a result of being without the necessary amount of oxygen for nearly 45 minutes, the baby was born with severe brain damage. She now suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The lack of oxygen caused parts of her brain to be irreparably harmed, so she suffers from spasms in her arms and legs, cannot easily control her neck, speaks only a few words and has difficulty walking.
Trial and jury award
The results of this case should not surprise a Chicago personal injury attorney. At the trial, the family’s attorney presented expert testimony that indicated if the child had been born only 15 to 17 minutes earlier, she would have suffered only minimal brain damage if any damage occurred at all.
In response to the gross negligence that the nurses showed in this matter, jurors awarded the little girl $32 million. This will help provide her with the necessary life-long medical care that would otherwise financially cripple her family.
A prevalent problem
Birth injuries occur when a body function or structure is impaired by an adverse influence during a birth. Unfortunately, these injuries are incredibly common for one of the most advanced nations in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 7 babies born with mild to severe injuries for every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. That equates to 76 babies being born with life-altering, preventable injuries every day around the nation. Some of the most common birth injuries include the following:
- Spinal cord damage
- Facial paralysis
- Erb’s palsy
- Cerebral palsy
Although these conditions vary in their severity depending on the individual condition of each child, most who sustain injuries and receive one of these diagnoses must endure a lifetime of pain and treatment along with financial, developmental and social consequences.
Inaction among healthcare providers
One of the greatest causes of birth injuries is negligence. All too often, doctors or nurses fail to act in an appropriate manner to prevent harm from coming to a child. This usually involves cases similar to the Pennsylvania family’s experience, where a doctor or nurse does not quickly initiate cesarean section protocols in time to prevent oxygen deprivation from setting in and causing brain damage. In other cases, a doctor uses forceps to help deliver the baby’s head. If used with too much force, the child can experience permanent brain and nerve damage. Similar consequences can occur when a doctor uses a vacuum to assist a delivery. These medical errors are unacceptable, yet they occur every day.
Protection and prevention against birth injuries
The best protection against a birth injury is information. Laboring mothers and their families or friends can only prevent injuries if they have all of the information about what is occurring during the labor. To ensure that both mothers and their babies receive only the best care, women should have a partner, friend or family member at their side at all times to gather and relay information regarding what is happening and help them make informed decisions. Patients should always trust their instincts, and if they believe something has gone amiss, they should be prepared to insist on receiving a second opinion.
Birth injuries often result in severe life-long consequences for injured babies and their families. Those who have been affected by a birth injury should contact a Chicago personal injury attorney to learn their rights and how to proceed with a claim for malpractice.