Injured at Birth: Natal Negligence and Brain Damage in Maryland

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It is devastating when babies experience medical complications just before they are born or immediately after. However, it is especially traumatic when babies are hurt during their labor and delivery due to negligence by doctors or other medical personnel. One injury that is all too common and inexcusable is brain damage because of a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain.

While not every brain injury that occurs during a birth in Maryland may be avoidable, most may be prevented. If a doctor fails to safely bring a new life into this world, though, they should be held responsible for any negligence on their part. In these cases, Maryland allows medical malpractice lawsuits under certain circumstances.

Brain Damage and Related Injuries

Birth injuries sometimes happen to a fetus while still in the uterus or during the labor and delivery of a baby. The harm done to a baby's brain or body may be caused by a variety of factors, but ultimately results in permanent injury. It is difficult to estimate how many birth injuries occur each year, but some sources report that two to seven babies out of every 1000 births sustain some sort of trauma. Many of these children end up with developmental conditions like cerebral palsy or seizure disorders, which often stem from brain damage.

Anything that prevents the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain before or during birth may cause brain injury to a fetus or newborn. The terms anoxic and hypoxic are often used in these cases. Anoxic brain injuries occur when the brain is completely deprived of oxygen and hypoxic brain injuries happen when the brain receives only a limited amount of oxygen. Brain damage in babies may be immediately evident, but in many instances it takes time to notice the physical, mental and developmental signs of these injuries, which may have been negligently inflicted during birth.

Signs of Natal Negligence

Many parents choose to have their babies in hospitals, with doctors or nurses present, to minimize the risks that something could go wrong and to mitigate the potential for birth injuries or death if these fears become a reality. Observant obstetricians typically identify and swiftly resolve complications like infections, maternal health problems or concerns with the baby's size either before or during a birth. In some unfortunate cases, however, medical mistakes and avoidable errors in managing a labor and delivery can lead to brain injuries in infants.

Oversights by a labor and delivery team may include a failure to appropriately respond to a baby's distress as exhibited through a fetal monitoring system, inability to detect or quickly correct umbilical cord compression issues or fetal positioning in the birth canal and misuse of extraction tools like forceps or vacuums. If labor becomes lengthy or the contractions are too powerful for a baby, these factors may also limit the flow of blood and oxygen to his or her brain. Slow or ineffective reactions by doctors or nurses to control such scenarios, for example by making the call for an emergency cesarean section, could lead to irreparable brain damage to the fetus. These poor practices may be enough for a malpractice lawsuit.

Malpractice Lawsuits in Maryland

In general, doctors owe all of their patients a reasonable standard of care that other physicians would have exhibited under similar circumstances. With regard to childbirth, obstetricians should be able to manage the labor and delivery process, including risks or complications, normally resulting in the successful birth of a healthy baby. When this does not occur, and the reasonable standard of care was ignored or breached and resulted in negligent care, malpractice may have caused an infant's birth injury or death.

Maryland allows malpractice lawsuits against medical professionals where their negligence directly resulted in an injury, such as a baby's brain damage. Malpractice claims must be filed within five years of the date when the baby's brain or other injury occurred. However, if the injury was not detected until later, the malpractice action must be filed within three years of its discovery. In the case of a fatality, a wrongful death lawsuit must be made within three years after the child's death. Doctors and other medical personnel may be charged with malpractice, as well as hospitals when they are apparent agents of the physicians. Although it may be difficult, malpractice claims are one way to handle the hurt.

Handling the Hurt

Expectant parents want to give their babies as safe a birth experience as possible. When it is the job of a medical doctor to oversee a labor and delivery, however, it is the doctor's responsibility to identify, assess and resolve any risks to the mother and baby during childbirth. Even the slightest misstep can cause instant brain injuries to fragile infants, which will alter their lives forever. For parents devastated by the injury or death of their newborn, the hardest first step may be making the call for legal help.

Children injured at birth deserve to have the care they need throughout the rest of their lives, so holding the appropriate parties liable for the brain or bodily damage they caused is crucial. If you suspect malpractice or negligence contributed to your child's injury or death before, during or after the labor and delivery, contact a personal injury attorney in your area. A Maryland lawyer with experience in both birth and brain injuries may be able to help you receive the financial support both you and your child need to ensure the best for the future.