A birth injury is one of the most heartbreaking events that a family can suffer. When a healthy baby is expected but preventable injuries occur due to negligent conduct on the part of medical personnel, families are often left with devastating developmental and social consequences, as well as a lifetime of pain, treatment, and crippling medical costs.
According to Medscape, for every 1,000 babies born in the U.S., six to eight are born with mild to severe injuries. Some of these life-altering but preventable injuries include:
- Brain damage
- Abrasions and lacerations
- Spinal cord damage
- Facial paralysis
- Erb’s palsy
- Cerebral palsy
- Soft tissue injuries
- Brachial plexus injury
- Cranial and laryngeal nerve injury
- Intra-abdominal injury
Causes of Birth Injuries
Although medical errors are unacceptable, they occur every day. One of the major causes of birth injuries in Colorado and elsewhere is medical malpractice, when doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals fail to act in an appropriate manner to prevent a child from being harmed during birth. Some of these preventable errors include:
- Failure to detect and properly treat fetal distress
- Improper use of birth-assisting tools, such as a vacuum or forceps
- Failure to schedule and perform an emergency cesarean section (C-section)
- Failure to monitor and control oxygen intake
- Failure to detect placenta previa or placental abruption
- Abnormal or excessive traction during delivery
Birth injuries often result in severe long-term consequences for injured babies as well as their families.
Liability for Birth Injuries
A birth injury claim is not limited to the negligent conduct of doctors and nurses, but also laboratory technicians, anesthesiologists, certified nurse assistants (CNAs), as well as health care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and other individuals and entities that provide health care services.
When a hospital employee’s malpractice injures a patient, the hospital itself may be held vicariously liable under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. Under this doctrine, an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employee, as long as the employee was acting in the course and scope of his employment when the injury occurred.
Protection Against Birth Injuries
The best protection against birth injuries is being informed. Laboring mothers and their families can only help prevent injuries if they have accurate information about what is happening during labor. To help ensure that mothers and babies receive the care they need, women should consider having a partner, friend, or member of their family at their side at all times during the birthing experience to gather and relay information and help them make informed decisions during what is often a stressful and confusing process.
Overall, because of improved prenatal assessment with ultrasonography and because cesarean delivery may be done in certain circumstances, the rate of birth injuries is much lower now than in previous decades, but unfortunately, negligence still occurs.
Image by DAVID Swift