Medical Negligence Causing Birth Injuries Far More Frequently than Anyone May Realize

Oct 19, 2015 by

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, as many as 28,000 babies are born with a birth injury every year. Good thing most of these injuries are only minor and easily heal without any need for treatment. But what about the serious ones, to think that this nation probably has the most advanced healthcare system in the world and some of the world’s most modern medical equipment?

A birth injury, or birth trauma, is a general term that is used to refer to any type of injury or harm (such as fractures, cuts or other injuries) sustained during the birthing process. It usually occurs during a difficult delivery, which may be due to: the abnormal position of a fetus in the uterus at birth (like a breech position, wherein the baby exits the pelvis with his/her buttocks or feet first); the birth canal being too small; or, the fetus being too large (when delivering larger babies, doctors usually use a vacuum or forceps to make babies’ passage through the birth canal easier. This, however, can result to neonatal injuries, especially if the doctor is not careful with birthing instruments or uses too much force). Difficult delivery or not, however, many legal and medical professionals will confirm the sad fact that medical negligence is the top reason why many babies suffer injuries during birth and that these acts occur far more frequently than any one may realize.

While a professional or licensed midwife may be present and assist during delivery, medical negligence is usually identified as failure on the part of a doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, and whoever may be part of the medical team inside the delivery room. On the part of the doctor, the most commonly reported acts of medical negligence that he or she may be held accountable for include his or her: excessive dependence on modern medical devices; failure to dedicate the time required in preparing for a proper delivery; dangerous performance of a rush delivery; and, failure to perform a caesarean section during emergency.

Based on a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the most common serious types of birth injuries due to medical negligence, include:

  • Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI). This includes Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy (a form of BPI which can affect the upper limbs, armpit and back of the neck and which can cause paralysis in the forearm and hand). Brachial Plexus Injury can result to temporary or permanent disability.
  • Bells’ palsy or Paralysis of Facial Nerves. This is due to the use of forceps or a vacuum during delivery. If too much pressure is applied on an infant’s face, such pressure can damage nerves which, in turn can result to total paralysis on the side of the face that is affected.
  • Brain Injury. This is one of the effects of oxygen deprivation and it can lead to a host of medical disorders, like cerebral palsy and chronic seizures.
  • Cephalohematoma. This usually results from the use of birth-assisting tools. Cephalohematoma happens due to the pooling of blood or bleeding underneath the skull.
  • Cerebral Palsy. This is damage to the brain which causes impaired muscle coordination. There is no known cure for this type of birth injury, which may be sustained before or during birth.

Newborns naturally sustain minor injuries during the childbirth process and that bruising, tearing, stretching of tissues and even broken bones are, in fact, very common and often unavoidable results of bringing a child into the world.

The case is different though with regard to serious birth injuries since most of these are consequences of acts of negligence either during prenatal care or inside the delivery room. Any serious injury suffered by a newborn, therefore, deserves to be investigated as this may lead to the discovery of irresponsible behavior, a mistake that can forever change the life of a child and his/her family.

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