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Infant Brain Damage

While childbirth is a natural process that can usually be expected to proceed without complications, most mothers in the United States choose to deliver their babies in a hospital to provide an extra measure of safety in the event a complication should arise. Women put their trust in doctors, nurses, midwives, and other hospital staff to ensure that they get the best care to ensure the safe birth of a healthy child

Doctors, midwives, and hospital staff are responsible for delivering every mother a high standard of care during pregnancy and delivery. Most healthcare professionals take pride in delivering the highest standard of care, but some become careless, and errors occur that cause permanent damage to the baby’s brain.

Medical errors that might result in brain damage

Not every instance of brain damage is a result of medical malpractice. It can be caused by a hereditary condition or a genetic abnormality. But too often, brain damage comes from medical errors. Some of the medical errors leading up to the birth are failing to detect a potential problem, such as the baby’s head being too large for the mother’s pelvis; failing to control gestational diabetes, overlooking maternal hypertension and pre-eclampsia, and failing to detect genital herpes infection.

During the birthing process, common medical errors include failing to adequately monitor the baby, excessive Pitocin use to induce or stimulate labor, failing to perform a C-section when monitoring shows fetal distress, failing to deliver the baby within 24 hours after membranes have ruptured, and injury from forceps or vacuum extraction.

Types of brain damage

Preventable types of brain damage include cerebral palsy, herpes infection, and kernicterus.

Cerebral Palsy: The most common type of brain damage is cerebral palsy, a movement disorder that can occur when the baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen.

Kernicterus: Kernicterus is brain damage that is caused by excessive levels of bilirubin. Many babies have a slightly elevated bilirubin level, which causes mild jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and is associated with the immaturity of the liver in a newborn. Babies with jaundice need to be monitored carefully and placed under a special blue light that helps clear the toxic bilirubin from the body. If the bilirubin count goes too high, a blood transfusion is sometimes needed to prevent kernicterus. Failing to take these precautions would be considered a breach in the expected standard of care and grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Besides jaundice, indications of kernicterus include

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Arching of the back
  • Distinctive high-pitched cry

Congenital herpes encephalitis: If a mother has an active vaginal herpes infection, the baby must be delivered by C-section to avoid transmitting the virus. If delivered vaginally, the baby is usually infected and the virus can spread to the brain and cause herpes encephalitis and brain damage. All pregnant women should be tested for herpes before delivery. Failing to diagnose a herpes infection and allowing vaginal delivery could constitute malpractice.

Making a malpractice claim for infant brain damage

Seattle, Washington birth injury lawyers Wattel and York have the experience it takes to help babies and their families when a medical professional or hospital has caused or failed to prevent these injuries. These children often require years of medical care and special services, and we will fight to see that they get what they need.

If your child has suffered brain damage and you think that it may have been caused by medical malpractice, call us for a free, no-obligation consultation. The evaluation costs you nothing, and you pay nothing unless we win a recovery for your child.

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Disclaimer: David Wattel and Michael York are licensed attorneys in Arizona only. Washington cases are handled in the firm's Washington office only, by lawyers admitted to practice in Washington.

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