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Medication Errors During Labor and Delivery Can Cause Catastrophic Birth InjuriesPharmacological advances have made pregnancy, labor, and delivery safer and less painful than in decades past. Unfortunately, the risks associated with certain medications are not always fully understood. Improper use of medications can cause serious injury or even death to a mother or an infant. If a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence results in a preventable birth injury, the victim or the victim’s surviving loved ones may have a valid medical malpractice claim. Compensation for past medical bills, future medical care, pain and suffering, and other damages may be available.

Medication Mistakes That Often Lead to Medical Malpractice Claims

Any patient can suffer injury or death from mistakes involving medications or medical procedures; however, pregnant women are especially vulnerable to medical mistakes. The birth process is already very hard on a woman’s body. When doctors and other medical staff do not uphold their duty to provide competent medical care, they put the woman’s life and the life of her unborn child in danger. One of the most egregious types of medical negligence occurs when a pregnant woman is given the wrong type of medication. Doctors, nurses, or other staff may misread the medication label or otherwise become confused and administer the wrong drug. Another serious error occurs when a woman is given an inaccurate dose of a medication.  

Medication Errors Involving Pitocin

When labor is not progressing normally, an infant can be at risk of asphyxia and other dangerous conditions. Consequently, a doctor may choose to use medications to expedite the birth. A synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin is sometimes used to accelerate delivery despite the risks associated with this drug. This medication, often referred to by the brand names Pitocin and Syntocinon, makes the mother’s uterus contract. There is significant debate as to the effectiveness and safety of this medication. If Pitocin is administered incorrectly or at an excessive dose, the mother’s contractions may become too intense and cause a detached placenta or “placental abruption.” If the placenta becomes partially or fully separated from the uterus, the infant will be deprived of oxygen and nutrients. This could lead to fetal brain injuries, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), fetal stroke, stillbirth, and maternal hemorrhaging.

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Birth Injuries Sustained During a Cesarean Section May Be The Result of Medical Negligence  Approximately one-third of all infants in the United States are born via Cesarean section or C-section. Some C-sections are planned because the mother or baby has certain risk factors that make vaginal delivery an unsafe option. In other cases, a mother plans to have a traditional birth but complications require an emergency Cesarean delivery. C-sections can often prevent medical complications that would have likely been caused by traditional delivery. However, when a C-section is performed incorrectly, delayed, or performed unnecessarily, preventable birth injures may occur.  

Delayed C-Sections  

Obstetricians and other medical professionals must carefully evaluate the mother’s medical history and the baby’s health in order to determine whether or not a C-section is a safe delivery method. C-sections are often ordered when the infant is in a breech or transverse position or shows signs of fetal distress. A C-section may also be ordered if the mother experiences problems such as:

  • Prolonged labor
  • Failure to progress normally during labor
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Uterine rupture
  • Placental abruption
  • Placenta Previa

The decision to perform an emergency C-section is one that must be made swiftly. If a doctor waits too long to perform a C-section, the baby may suffer from oxygen deprivation, which can lead to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, and other forms of brain damage. When a doctor fails to order a necessary C-section or delays a C-section and the mother or infant is harmed as a result, the mother may have a valid medical malpractice claim.

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What Types of Brain Injuries Can Occur During Birth?Your baby’s birth is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. Unfortunately, for many parents, an unexpected birth injury fills the day with uncertainty and fear. Brain injuries during birth can be especially frightening. When an infant suffers brain damage during birth, he or she may develop problems that last the rest of his or her life. If the injury is the result of medical malpractice, the child’s parents may be entitled to compensation for the losses they have suffered because of the brain injury.

Brain Injuries Caused by Problems During Birth

There are numerous medical complications that can arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain, is one of the most concerning birth injuries that a baby can experience. Brain injuries can also be caused by physical trauma during delivery or infections that travel through the bloodstream and enter the baby’s brain.

  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) – When a baby’s brain receives too little oxygen before, during, or after birth, brain tissue may start to die. Once oxygenated blood flow returns to normal, a “reperfusion injury” is caused by the toxins that are released by the dying brain cells. HIE can be caused by umbilical cord problems, uterine rupture, placental abruption, feto-maternal hemorrhage, trauma during delivery, shoulder dystocia, and other conditions that reduce blood flow to the baby’s brain.
  • Neonatal Stroke – The most common type of fetal stroke, an arterial ischemic stroke, often occurs when blood flow within a baby's brain or spinal cord is blocked by a blood clot. Fetal strokes are more common when the baby or mother suffers from a cardiac disorder, a genetic condition affecting blood clotting, or sickle cell anemia.
  • Cystic Encephalomalacia Infections, physical trauma, or inflammation may result in the softening or death of brain matter. Cystic encephalomalacia can lead to intellectual disabilities, seizures, coma, and, in some cases, even death.
  • Microcephaly – When a baby is born with a much smaller head than is normal, the baby can develop problems learning to walk and talk, intellectual disabilities, feeding problems, hearing and vision loss, seizures, and other significant symptoms.
  • Skull Fractures – Usually, skull fractures are the result of the use of instruments like forceps and vacuum extractors during birth. Skull fractures can cause bleeding, brain damage, and ruptures in the membranes enveloping the brain.
  • Cerebral Palsy – Injuries to the brain during labor and delivery are some of the most common causes of cerebral palsy. A child with cerebral palsy may suffer from spastic muscles, problems with movement and coordination, difficulty swallowing, and a number of other debilitating symptoms.

Contact an Illinois Birth Injury Lawyer

Brain injuries during birth or pregnancy are sometimes caused by a doctor’s negligence. If a child develops a condition such as cerebral palsy or other health problems after being the victim of medical negligence, the parents may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, contact Schwartz Injury Law at 815-723-7300 and schedule a free consultation with a skilled Joliet personal injury attorney.

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Erb’s Palsy Is Sometimes the Result of Medical NegligenceThe birth of a child is a joyous occasion, but for some parents, this joy is tarnished by a birth injury. Injuries to a baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery may result in serious health concerns for both the mother and the child. In some cases, birth injuries cause a child to suffer from health concerns for the rest of his or her life. Erb’s Palsy is a condition that most often results from injury to a baby’s brachial plexus nerves during birth. A baby suffering from Erb’s Palsy may experience weakness, loss of feeling, and partial or total paralysis of the arm. He or she may need several surgeries and years of physical therapy to reduce the harm caused by the injury.

Causes of Erb’s Palsy

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that allows movement of the arms, shoulders, and hands. Damage to these nerves can be caused by any type of trauma, however, most brachial plexus injuries are the result of injury during birth. Often, this nerve damage occurs as a result of attempts to move the baby through the birth canal. A condition called shoulder dystocia can occur if the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged on the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. This is a very dangerous condition because it may deprive the baby of oxygen and cause brain damage or death. Consequently, doctors must work quickly to fix the condition and allow the baby to exit the birth canal. Some brachial plexus injuries occur when a doctor uses force to pull the baby through the birth canal and the baby’s neck is stretched to the point of injury. Other times, the use of vacuum extraction or forceps during birth causes an infant to suffer from a brachial plexus injury.

Receiving Compensation for Your Damages

Erb’s Palsy is often preventable. If a doctor acts negligently during an infant’s birth and this negligence causes the child to suffer from Erb’s Palsy, the doctor or the medical facility at which the child was born may be liable for the injury. Medical negligence typically involves the doctor deviating from the accepted medical standard of care. This standard of care refers to the proficiency of care that would be reasonably expected of someone with comparable medical training and experience in a similar situation.  

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When is a Doctor or Hospital Legally Responsible for a Child Developing Cerebral Palsy?Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by the atypical development of a child’s brain often stemming from brain injury or infection. Children with cerebral palsy typically experience loss of muscle control, reduced muscle tone, impaired movement, lack of balance and coordination, involuntary movements, eye problems, and other serious symptoms. Research into the many causes of cerebral palsy is still ongoing, but in some cases, cerebral palsy is a direct result of a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence during the child’s birth. If your child has cerebral palsy, you may question whether or not medical malpractice played a role in your child’s development of this disorder.

Understanding the Medical Standard of Care

There are typically four elements needed to establish medical malpractice. Firstly, the doctor must have owned the patient a duty of care. This means that a doctor-patient relationship existed so the doctor had a duty to provide medical care to the patient. Secondly, the doctor deviated from the “medical standard of care.” The standard of care refers to the level of care that a competent doctor of similar experience and training would have provided under similar circumstances. Thirdly, the doctor’s failure to meet the medical standard of care caused the patient’s injury. Lastly, the injury led to damages such as additional medical expenses or pain and suffering.

Examples of Medical Malpractice That Can Cause Cerebral Palsy

There are countless things that can go wrong during a pregnancy or birth. This is why doctors must receive such a great deal of education and training before becoming a certified physician. If a doctor or other medical professional did not appropriately treat a medical condition during pregnancy or birth, he or she may be liable for the harm done to a child. In some situations, the liable party is the hospital as a whole. Examples of medical malpractice that often lead to the development of cerebral palsy include but are not limited to:

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Can Using Forceps During Childbirth Injury a Baby?While it is uncommon for babies to suffer serious birth injuries during an assisted birth, it can still happen if the doctor miscalculates or misuses a device.

If a mother is having difficulty during labor, a doctor will sometimes use forceps or a vacuum to help guide the baby through the birth canal. However, this should not be the first step to coaxing a baby through a difficult birth. It is risky to pull too hard on a baby during birth because it can lead to: 

  • Nerve damage;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Exterior eye injury;
  • Skull fracture;
  • Seizures; and
  • Bleeding within the skull.

Most of the time the injuries are minor cuts to the baby’s scalp or wherever the forceps grab the baby, but parents whose child sustained more serious injuries should file a medical malpractice lawsuit as soon as possible.

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"OrlandWhen a child is born with a brachial plexus injury, it is natural to wonder if medical errors or negligence contributed to the injury. Such injuries can happen when a baby’s shoulders are large relative to the size of the mother. When the baby gets wedged in the birth canal during the delivery process, the baby’s brachial plexus nerves can stretch or tear. 

Types of Brachial Plexus Nerve Injuries

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control shoulder, arm, and hand movement. There are essentially four types of nerve injuries:

  • A stretching of a nerve, akin to a mild muscle strain, which usually heals on its own within a few months. 

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Joliet Birth Injury AttorneyWhen a baby dies after at least 20 weeks of pregnancy but prior to birth, this is termed a stillbirth. Problems with the placenta or umbilical cord are two of the most common causes of stillbirth, and both of these problems can often be diagnosed via prenatal ultrasound tests. If your doctor failed to identify and provide appropriate treatment for a condition that led to your child being stillborn, you could have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit for infant wrongful death.

Illinois Law on Wrongful Death of an Unborn Child

Some states strictly limit the amount of damages that can be claimed by parents for the wrongful death of a child, essentially allowing recovery only for funeral expenses. Some states do not allow parents to make a wrongful death claim at all for an unborn child. In Illinois, however, the law states that parents can claim compensation for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering in addition to actual expenses. Illinois law also holds that “the state of gestation or development of a human being” does not prevent parents from pursuing a claim for

“the death of a human being caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default.”

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Orland Park birth injury attorney medical expertWhen a hospital or birth center fails to adhere to obstetric standards of care, a baby can suffer severe birth injuries. One health professional’s negligence, or a combination of medical mistakes, can cause irreparable harm to both the child and mother.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit may be far from the minds of grieving parents. However, it is crucial to begin the evidence-gathering process as soon as possible after an infant death or injury, because memories quickly fade, and important evidence could be lost. While you have up to eight years to file a birth injury claim in Illinois, it takes months to gather the necessary evidence and prepare to file a claim.  

Medical Records Review and Analysis

Medical errors, particularly a failure to recognize danger signs, can happen at any time before, during, or after labor and delivery. Therefore, your lawyer’s first job will be to obtain complete medical records for both mother and baby. These records will be the most important factor in your case. 

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Joliet birth injury lawyer

When you see headlines about babies weighing 10, 12, or even 14 pounds at birth, you might wonder how common this really is and whether such large babies are at a greater risk for some type of birth injury

An estimated 7 percent of babies born in the US weigh more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth, qualifying them for the medical term macrosomia, which means “large for its age.” Just 1 percent of all babies weigh in at 9 ½ pounds or more, the weight at which obstetrical best practices suggest a baby should be delivered by cesarean section. 

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Tinley Park birth injury lawyer hypoxia

What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Birth Injury Claim in Illinois?

Illinois law recognizes that the extent of a birth injury is often not fully realized until a child nears school age. The Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations, which you can find at 735 ILCS section 5/13-212(a), states that the statute of limitations is 8 years after a child’s birth to file a birth injury claim for damages.

Oxygen Deprivation May Be Attributed to Medical Malpractice

Birth injuries due to hypoxia are often preventable. Labor and delivery staff are expected to closely monitor the baby’s heart rate and take swift action if there are signs that the baby’s health is in danger. If labor and delivery professionals are negligent and fail to meet the medical standard of care, causing significant injury and damages to a baby, they can be sued for medical malpractice.

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Tinley Park birth injury lawyer maternal deathYou may be shocked to learn that the number of U.S. women who died while giving birth has risen over the past 15 years, from 700 deaths in 2000 to 1,063 in 2015. Over the same 15-year period, the U.S. maternal mortality ratio rose from 17.5 to 26.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. Of course, not all of those deaths are attributable to medical malpractice. But these statistics do raise questions. Why has the maternal mortality ratio in the U.S. gone up? Why are maternal death rates are so much higher in some states than others? Are some of these deaths preventable?

California, for example, has a maternal death ratio of just 4.5, while Illinois has a reported ratio of 14.7. An Illinois study published in 2014 suggested that roughly one-third of maternal deaths in Illinois could have been prevented. 

Preventable Maternal Deaths During Childbirth

Some birth injuries leading to maternal death are blamed on poverty, lack of access to health care services, and untreated chronic conditions such as obesity, smoking, substance abuse, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and mental health disorders.

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Tinley Park birth injury lawyer oxygen deprivationOxygen deprivation during the birth process is a common cause of brain damage in newborns. While some cases of oxygen deprivation are unforeseeable, invisible, and unpreventable, other cases can be attributed to medical malpractice. It is crucial that hospitals and birthing centers respond quickly to provide treatment if there is any indication that a baby is suffering or has suffered oxygen deprivation during birth.

Brain Damage Due to Oxygen Deprivation in Cook County 

One of the most common causes of brain-related birth injuries is delayed delivery of the baby. A baby that stays in the birth canal too long can suffer permanent brain damage due to lack of blood flow and oxygen. Oxygen deprivation can also result from umbilical cord problems or other complications during birth. The technical term for oxygen deprivation at or near the time of birth is birth asphyxia

As a result of oxygen deprivation during birth, two to three out of every 1,000 babies born in the US are diagnosed with a condition known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Breaking down this term: hypoxic = lack of oxygen, ischemic = restricting blood flow, and encephalopathy = affecting the brain. Children with HIE can have cognitive impairments as well as deficits in motor skills.

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