Birth injuries can cause serious child disabilities. Detecting the warning signs of a birth injury as early as possible is critical for the overall health and well-being of the infant. Early detection and intervention can potentially prevent a more serious injury from occurring, such as reducing the amount of brain damage suffered by a baby in utero who is experiencing fetal distress. Delayed diagnosis and intervention can result in life-changing birth injuries. If a loved one was harmed by a preventable medical error, a Philadelphia birth injury lawyer may be able to help.
The Importance of Early Detection
Birth injuries refer to harm suffered by an infant while in utero, during labor and delivery, or shortly after birth. In these stages of life, an infant’s brain and organs are still developing. Injuries at this time can have a devastating effect on the infant and can cause permanent damage to developing parts of the body. An infant brain injury, for example, could lead to abnormal brain development that causes cerebral palsy – a permanent motor function disability.
Common birth complications that must be detected and treated promptly in order to minimize the risk of permanent injury include placental abruption, shoulder dystocia, umbilical cord prolapse and perinatal asphyxia. The negligent failure to notice and treat symptoms of a problem can result in birth injuries suffered by mother or child. Examples include brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy, cerebral palsy, bone fractures, nerve damage and facial paralysis.
Detecting the warning signs of fetal distress early, such as signs that the infant is not getting enough oxygen, can allow a physician to take action to resolve the issue promptly. Early intervention could potentially prevent serious and sometimes fatal birth injuries, including brain hypoxia, a dangerous lack of oxygen reaching the infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Every second counts during this medical emergency, as the longer the infant’s brain goes without oxygen, the higher the odds are of permanent brain damage.
What Are a Physician’s Duties of Care in Detecting Birth Injuries?
Physicians have a responsibility to carefully monitor the heartbeat and vital signs of both mother and child during pregnancy and labor. If any signs of fetal distress are detected, such as changes in heart rate, slower infant movement patterns or no infant movement at all, the doctor must promptly determine the source of the problem and intervene to protect the mother and baby from harm as much as possible.
A doctor has an ethical duty to act according to the same standards of care that a reasonably prudent doctor would in the same or similar circumstances. The duty of care includes properly monitoring a patient during labor and delivery and detecting the signs of a problem in a timely manner. The failure to adhere to the required or reasonable standards of care during a patient’s pregnancy or the birth of a child is medical malpractice.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim for Failure to Prevent a Birth Injury
Medical malpractice in the form of a lack of patient monitoring, delayed fetal distress diagnosis, negligent technique, improper procedures during delivery, or the failure to order an emergency C-section (or perform it quickly enough) could cause a preventable birth injury. An injured infant may live with the effects of the birth injury for the rest of his or her life. If there is evidence that the doctor or other hospital staff reasonably should have done more to prevent the birth injury, the doctor or other health care provider may be held liable for medical malpractice.
You have two years from the date that the injured child turns 18 – in other words, until the child’s 20th birthday – to file a lawsuit for a birth injury in Pennsylvania. Filing as soon as possible, however, can make it easier to preserve and collect key evidence to support your case. Contact an attorney at Youman & Caputo to investigate and file your birth injury claim. Our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers can help you prove medical malpractice in a case involving delayed fetal distress diagnosis.