Birth injuries and medical negligence

Parents expecting their first baby feel joy and anticipation and may daydream about their son's little league trophy or their daughter's science project award. The parents dutifully follow their obstetrician's instructions; the mother attends maternity exercise classes, and the father learns how to coach his wife through delivery. Grandfather opens a college education savings account as a gift for the little one's arrival.

When the ninth month arrives, the couple gently reminds their parents it's OK not to call and check on progress several times a day.

Normal injuries to newborns

No matter how many birthing classes parents attend, internet tips they read or stories they hear about childbirth from their friends, each birth is unique. The couple anxiously hopes all will be well with mother and baby during delivery.

The physical pressure of contractions exert force on the baby to move it through the birth canal. Minor birth injuries usually heal without treatment. Doctors should know well in advance if a fetus is in danger of severe birth injuries. If the baby is too large or lying in the wrong position, a doctor can perform a Cesarean section to prevent birth injury.

Preventable disease or injury

In natal defects, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the doctor acted negligently or whether a genetic complication no one could have detected has occurred. There are areas where the doctor is responsible for the identification and treatment of preventable problems. A few of these areas include the following:

  • Brain injuries, most commonly cerebral palsy caused by medical failure to rectify umbilical cord oxygen deprivation, carry out a necessary C-section, or treat maternal infections
  • Delivery injuries, such as broken bones or severe nerve damage, caused by a physician's improper use of forceps, vacuum extractors or other delivery tools
  • Medication injuries, caused by a doctor prescribing medications during pregnancy known to cause high blood pressure in the baby which shuts off its oxygen or results in congenital disabilities
  • Diagnostic failures, when a doctor should have identified and treated infections, vitamin deficiencies, or fails to perform a C-section to prevent meconium aspiration and breathing difficulties occurring to the baby in long, difficult labor

Parental information rights

If a parent feels something is wrong or does not understand a procedure, he or she has the legal right to ask questions and receive prompt understandable answers. Parents should trust their instincts. If the baby appears to be in difficulty, parents should not let these issues drop. Parents are not required to accept vague assurances by medical staff that all is well. Their child's future may be at risk. Doctors and hospitals are usually responsible when preventable birth injuries occur.

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