Knowing what to look out for and what to expect are key steps in protecting your child's health. Which is why you check their temperature when they don't feel well - you're monitoring a potential warning sign. You put sunscreen on them before going outside because you know sun exposure leads to sunburn and, long term, potential skin cancer.
Possessing this knowledge does not guarantee a solution for every situation, but it can help. The same can be said of birth injuries or instances of medical malpractice that may affect, or have affected, your child.
A study by The Doctors Company released in March of 2019 offers insight into malpractice claims involving children. The group analyzed more than 1,200 claims filed on behalf of children from 2008-17. The claims include injuries to children up through the age of 17, and were made against physicians in 52 different specialties or subspecialties (though excluding dentists and oral surgeons). In this post, we will specifically look at claims in the study regarding the neonate (under 1 month old) and first-year (1-11 months old) age groups.
Most common types of injuries
There are a number of potential injuries a newborn might suffer during the course of a medical procedure, including brain injuries, cerebral palsy, fetal distress, physical injuries and more. Which ones are the most common?
Among the neonate patient claims included in the study, nearly half - 48% - cited a brain injury. Arm injuries came in next at 19% of claims, with injuries to the penis (5%), blood (4%) and legs (4%) occurring as well, but less frequently. In addition, three-fourths of the neonate claims involved injuries deemed high-severity.
For patients 1-11 months, brain injuries accounted for 36% of the claims looked at in the study. Damage to the lungs and respiratory system was next at 20%, with heart injuries following at 15%. Blood (9%) and hip (4%) injuries also crop up. High-severity injuries were common among this age group as well, comprising 65% of claims.
These troubling figures underscore how critical of a time the earliest moments of a child's life can be for their health.
Most common reasons for a claim
Perhaps unsurprisingly, claims cited obstetrics-related treatment as the motivation for filing in the majority of neonate cases, comprising 63% of those included in the study. Diagnosis-related issues - either a failure to diagnose, a delayed diagnosis or an incorrect diagnosis -accounted for 14% of claims, while non-obstetric medical treatment allegations made up 13% of claims.
For patients 1-11 months old, obstetrics-related allegations represented a much smaller - though still notable - fraction of claims at 3%. The most common allegation was a diagnosis-related issue, showing up as motivation in 44% of claims. Meanwhile 21% of claims were for non-obstetric medical treatment, and 8% cited non-anesthesia-related surgical treatment.
A bevy of allegations - patient monitoring, anesthesia-related treatment, failure to warn of risks, failure to provide safety, and medication-related - each made up 3% of the claims for this age group.
The study's findings underscore the need to keep detailed records of your child's health. Nearly 15% of claims were filed more than five years after treatment was provided, suggesting a situation that seems settled at the time may actually get worse, resulting in more health issues and higher medical costs down the line.
By knowing when and how medical professionals might make a mistake, you can not only help protect your child in the moment, but may even notice potential issues you moved on from - issues that are maybe worth revisiting.
As an expectant parent, you trust your doctor to guide you through a healthy pregnancy and delivery. You probably cannot fathom that a medical professional would do something to harm you or your baby.
While your physician may not do so intentionally, overlooking the known side effects of prescription medications could result in birth defects or injuries. Nearly all medicine has potentially-harmful side effects, but do you know which medications you should not take throughout your pregnancy?
Medications you ought not take while pregnant
You are probably aware of the effects alcohol and recreational drugs can have on a developing fetus or nursing infant. But prescription medications can be problematic as well.
There are various risks associated with commonly-prescribed medications. These include:
Diflucan. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can alter your vaginal pH balance, resulting in a yeast infection. But Diflucan, or fluconazole, may cause miscarriage.
Antibiotics. Although your doctor might choose to treat an infection with Tetracycline, it could lead to heart or eye defects, malformation of your baby’s brain or cleft lip when taken during pregnancy.
NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help reduce pain, inflammation and fevers. But although your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications such as Aleve, Motrin or Excedrin, they could cause eye or limb abnormalities, in addition to defects of the spine, spinal cord or brain.
Benzodiazepines. Medications such as Ativan, Valium and Xanax may reduce your anxiety. However, these could lead to your child’s breathing problems, poor muscle control and trouble regulating temperature if you take them during your pregnancy.
SSRIs. Many women take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication to treat depression or anxiety and although they are common drugs, prescriptions such as Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac or Zoloft can prevent an infant from breathing on their own after birth.
Although certain medications are considered safe for use during pregnancy, your doctor should understand, and inform you of, the potential risks related to your prescriptions. However, if your child suffers from defects or injuries potentially related to medication your doctor prescribed during your pregnancy, exploring your legal options may be a way to hold them accountable.
Expecting a baby can be both exciting and scary. You might have various concerns about a healthy pregnancy, your birth plan and how you will raise your child.
Many times, expectant parents do not consider the dangers of childbirth. However, throughout the United States, there are injuries involved in a minimum of 2% of live births. But are you familiar with the conditions which may lead to traumatic birth injuries?
What is birth trauma?
Within the medical community, birth trauma refers to any non-congenital injuries, fractures or cuts sustained by an infant during the birthing process. These problems are quite common throughout developing nations.
However, large, healthy babies in the U.S. often require physician assistance to pass through the birth canal. In many cases, a doctor could injure an infant by using excessive force with forceps or their hands.
Common conditions which could cause birth injuries
Before delivering your baby, your doctor can work with you to develop a plan that is unique to your situation. While it is important to look forward to the best, your doctor should help you understand what to expect if a common cause of birth trauma is present during your pregnancy.
These conditions include:
An abnormal fetal position
Difficulties during labor
The shape and size of your pelvis
Large infant (weighing more than eight pounds, 13 ounces)
If your doctor is attentive during your pregnancy, they can likely recognize the medical risks which could result in birth trauma for your newborn. However, depending on the type of injuries your newborn experiences, it may be possible to hold your doctor accountable for their lack of oversight and preventative measures.
The growth of the internet has increased possibilities worldwide. You no longer have to fly long hours to attend a meeting, and your deployed partner can still participate in the birth of your child.
However, along with the countless ways the internet can bring people together, some questions arise when companies use it for nontraditional means. For example, although state and federal laws require that prescription medications are dispensed by licensed pharmacies, some suggest that the online healthcare company, Nurx, is cutting corners.
Online medical providers may supply as much concern as medication
While some medical websites can improve patient access to healthcare, others may argue that they can increase medical risks.
In addition to reshipping returned birth control prescriptions, Nurx representatives claim that complications such as blood clots are a known risk of taking birth control pills. Though, some may assert that prescribing birth control without a thorough examination may increase a woman's risk for suffering from side effects.
Affordable healthcare without requiring a doctor's visit
Prescription birth control and sexual health tests delivered to your door, at no additional charge
Through the online platform, patients as young as 13 can connect with nurse practitioners or physicians to gain access to sexual health prescriptions.
Many doctors require a woman to undergo an annual examination, including a pap smear, before prescribing birth control. However, while pelvic exams detect cellular changes which may be indicative of an increased risk of cervical cancer, they are unnecessary in preventing unplanned pregnancies.
The medical community may not be in full agreement, but you should not have to suffer as a result
While some disagreements remain over whether services like Nurx are reimagining healthcare in a safe and positive way, others enjoy the privacy and ease with which they can get birth control.
It is possible that you could experience complications due to receiving a prescription medication without a physical examination. Or perhaps you could develop cervical cancer due to a lack of required preventative measures. In either case, you may want to explore your options while regaining your health under the direct supervision of a licensed medical doctor.
As a woman, you are likely used to the discomfort you experience on a monthly basis. To a certain extent, cramps and bloating might seem normal. Perhaps back pain does as well.
However, sometimes you might feel as though your symptoms are worsening. And despite no diagnosis of a disease, you might believe something is seriously wrong.
Medical professionals failed to diagnose
Your symptoms might seem similar to how Lina Kharnak's endometriosis began - cramping, heavy periods and unexplained pain. Following a normal pelvic exam and ultrasound, Kharnak's chiropractor and ob-gyn agreed that she might have a pinched nerve or sciatica, based on the severe pain in her leg and back. However, in addition to her pain, Kharnak experienced:
High blood pressure
Frequent urinary tract infections
After years of researching her pain on her own, Kharnak wondered whether she might have endometriosis. But when she mentioned her concerns at an appointment with of the specialists she saw, the doctor allegedly told her to "stop practicing Google medicine."
Kharnak's research eventually led her to a correct diagnosis. However, by that point in time her health concerns were so extreme that Kharnak's surgical team removed her ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and one of her kidneys, in addition to her scar tissue and abnormal growths.
What Mayo Clinic suggests
The pain and symptoms Kharnak experienced align with those explained by Mayo Clinic. Although medical doctors may discourage your from trying to self-diagnose, you might still be wise to do your own research. And if a physician misdiagnosed you, know that you may be able to take action.
When you are pregnant, you eat healthily, get your rest and prepare a safe place to welcome your infant home. You attend your doctor's appointments and ask questions about how to have a healthy pregnancy.
Things your doctor should tell you about Group B Strep
As an adult, you may not always be familiar with potentially harmful conditions within your body. But before you give birth, your doctor should prepare you to have a healthy delivery. This includes protecting your infant from contracting group B strep (GBS).
Regardless of whether this is your first pregnancy, or you never tested positive for GBS during previous pregnancies, there are some things you might want to be aware of before giving birth. These include:
Roughly 25% of women have GBS bacteria present in their bodies
Your Ob/Gyn should test you for GBS when you are 35-37 weeks pregnant
Doctors collect vaginal and rectal swabs to send to the laboratory for testing
You will likely watch your infant closely after they are born, in any circumstances. However, if you notice a change in your infant's blood pressure, breathing trouble, or extreme fussiness, your baby may have been born with GBS.
However, some infants demonstrate other symptoms around a week following their birth. Along with labored breathing, they may develop a fever, red area on part of their body or have trouble moving one of their arms or legs.
Can you seek recourse if your baby suffers from GBS?
If your doctor failed to test for GBS and your baby suffers as a result, you would be wise to ask an attorney experienced in handling birth injury cases whether you can make a case for recovering damages.
A patient recently found over four feet of wire left in his body after a surgical procedure that he received over ten years ago. The patient received an angioplasty in 2005 and the surgeon failed to remove everything used during the procedure.
Wire used to guide procedure left behind, found ten years later
One of the things the doctor needed to complete the angioplasty was a catheter. The catheter ran through the incision site, in the man's thigh, up his body and into his heart. A specialist completes this procedure by inserting a metal wire and using this wire like a guide to insert the tools necessary to complete the procedure.
Unfortunately, the doctor failed to remove this guide wire when the procedure was complete.
Victim files medical malpractice suit, takes doctor to court
The patient has sued the surgeon for negligence. The doctor is fighting the allegations.
The doctor has stated that the failure was not his. Instead, he contends another medical professional was responsible for the removal. The patient alleged the physician is required to pay careful attention and ultimately bears responsibility for his injuries.
The case is ongoing.
Surgical error cases, evidence is needed
These cases can require a large amount of evidence. In addition to scans and tests to confirm the error occurred, courts also require the patient bring in other medical professionals to provide expert testimony. The victim will then use this testimony to establish the doctor failed to meet the accepted standard of care.
Those who suffer similar injuries will need to gather this type of evidence. An attorney experienced in these claims can help.
A recent publication by the New York Times has brought a teaching hospital under fire. The expose discusses how the pediatric cardiology group voiced concerns about the abilities of the chief of surgery to management and hospital executives. Instead of supporting their concerns, the leader of the children's hospital told the group a failure to use this surgeon could result in a loss of their jobs.
After the expose became public, hospital executives stated the group who pushed for change within the department had "team culture issues" that led to dysfunction. The recordings highlight the inner workings of a department and how these dynamics can impact patients. The interplay between physicians and administration can be a difficult one that could leave patients at risk.
Pediatric unit difficulties: The issue involved a surgeon expected by the hospital to perform heart transplants and other highly technical, difficult heart procedures on their young patients.
Due to these concerns, members of the department began to secretly record meetings. Within these meetings, the chief of pediatric cardiology admitted the department was "nowhere near" where it needed to be and called on the group to "figure out where to go from here" to help better ensure the department could provide their patients with quality care.
Examples of incidents discussed during these meetings included:
Pediatric heart transplant failure. The chief of surgery was expected to perform a heart transplant on an infant. The donor heart became available over a weekend. The surgeon did not come in to perform the transplant and did not give a clear reason as to why he failed to perform the procedure. The parents chose to transfer the baby to another facility to receive a transplant weeks later.
Complications from low-risk procedures. The recordings also show repeated concerns over complications arising from relatively low-risk procedures. Instead of the expected healthy recovery, children were finding themselves requiring mechanical support.
Although the physician who led the children's hospital wing encouraged physicians to follow their conscience when referring patients for surgery, he also stated fewer surgeries within their facilities would result in lost revenue and could cost them their jobs.
Lessons for patients in similar situations: Patients who believe dynamics within the hospital have contributed to injury have options to hold the hospital and responsible physicians accountable. An attorney experienced in these claims can provide more information.
Women experience several health changes during pregnancy, and if it is their first child those symptoms are new and strange. It can be difficult to discern what is a normal occurrence and what is a complication. They end up placing a lot of trust in their doctors.
Unfortunately, doctors can make errors. It has led pregnant women in the U.S. to suffer more fatal complications than women in any other high-income country.
One common complication doctors miss is preeclampsia. Despite it affecting 5-8% of pregnancies, doctors can miss the signs and it can have devastating effects for mother and baby. It is one of the top six causes of maternal mortality in the U.S.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a condition that only affects pregnant women after 20 weeks gestation and up to six weeks postpartum. Gestational hypertension often precedes preeclampsia. In most cases, its most effective treatment is to deliver the baby.
Preeclampsia is dangerous because it can lead to eclampsia, which causes seizures in the mother, or HELLP Syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count), which affects blood cell breakdown, blood clotting and liver function in pregnant women. The condition can also affect blood flow to the placenta, which reduces oxygen for the baby. This can lead to low birth weight.
What are the symptoms?
Severe preeclampsia, which a doctor may be more likely to catch, includes the following symptoms:
· Blurred vision
· Intolerance for bright light
· Low urine output
· Upper abdominal pain
· Shortness of breath
· Bruising easily
However, mild preeclampsia - which can be just as dangerous - is only characterized by high blood pressure, water retention/swelling and protein in the urine. If a pregnant woman doesn't show severe symptoms and isn't a patient typically at risk for preeclampsia, a doctor may assume it is gestational hypertension and not perform a protein test on their urine. However, first-time pregnant women do have an increased risk of preeclampsia.
Pregnant women and their families who believe they may have had preeclampsia and it negatively affected their health or their baby's, doctors should be held responsible. Treating preeclampsia and avoiding its complications is possible, but only with a doctor who understands this potentially fatal condition.
Seeking justice for an injury that results from negligent medical care requires vigilance. Justice can take time. A recent case provides an example.
One-year-old seeks medical care: A young girl's family had sought medical care for the child at an emergency department because she was vomiting and was breathing rapidly.
The attending emergency room physician ordered an x-ray. Upon review, the emergency room doctor noticed an abnormality with the patient's heart and contacted a radiologist. The radiologist stated the heart was fine, that the abnormality the emergency doctor noted was simply a result of the patient's failure to take a proper breath during the scan.
Unfortunately, the radiologist was wrong. The emergency room doctor relied upon the radiologist's reading and diagnosed the child with pneumonia. As part of her treatment, she received intravenous fluids.
Treatment for misdiagnosis results in injury: In reality, the young child had an enlarged heart. The fluids provided to treat the misdiagnosed pneumonia led to stress on the child's heart, resulting in cardiac arrest and brain damage.
The family contends that a proper diagnosis from the radiologist would have spared their daughter from her injuries. After just over two weeks at trial, a jury agreed.
Family gets justice years later: The jury awarded the family an $11.5 million award, ten years after the initial incident.
Those who experience similar injuries can learn from this case. Justice is possible. However, it is important to note that time limits are present that dictate how long a victim has to bring forward a case. In this case, the victim received a longer time limit due the fact she was so young when injured.