Little in this life is more precious than the birth of our children. Little in this life is as personally devastating as a child whose health and future well-being is compromised by a birth injury which results in brain injury or cerebral palsy. This is especially so when the birth injury and cerebral palsy was the result of medical malpractice or negligence.
Compromise of fetal oxygen supply to the brain during birth (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy/HIE) may result in permanent brain damage loosely identified as cerebral palsy, as illustrated in “Robert’s Story” below. Proper attention by doctors and nurses to the clinical status of mother and baby during labor and delivery will in most circumstances allow sufficient time for a medical response to fetal distress (often cesarean delivery) which will avoid brain damage/cerebral palsy.
A child may also be injured by mechanical forces brought to bear on the child during the birthing process. Shoulder dystocia/brachial plexus palsy is one such injury which may leave the child with a permanently compromised hand and arm.
“Robert’s Story” illustrates what the attorneys at Dungan & LeFevre have accomplished in birth injury/brain-damaged baby cases. Consult with Mike Baer or James Brookshire if you suspect your child suffered cerebral palsy or another birth injury as a result of negligent care by doctors or other healthcare providers. We would be pleased to conduct a medical/legal investigation of the circumstances surrounding your child’s birth.
Robert’s birth was all wrong. His mother had been encouraged by her doctor to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) delivery, which she was eager to do. However, this delivery carried a higher risk of uterine rupture due to uterine scarring associated with the birth of Robert’s two older brothers by cesarean delivery.
Mom’s doctor had prescribed a drug to hasten Robert’s delivery, but that drug was also associated with a higher risk of uterine overstimulation and rupture.
During Mom’s twelve-hour labor her doctor was never at her bedside. When Mom’s uterus ruptured and Robert was expelled partially into his mother’s abdominal cavity her doctor was at home thirty miles away.
The hospital in which Mom was laboring was a community hospital with no onsite surgical resources to perform an emergency cesarean delivery. For fifty minutes prior to his rescue by cesarean Robert struggled for life in his mother’s abdominal cavity. From the moment of his birth, Robert was severely and irreversibly brain damaged because of a lack of oxygen.
Robert suffers from permanent conditions caused by his birth trauma loosely identified as Cerebral Palsy including:
- Profound physical impairment, including loss of use of all limbs
- Profound mental retardation
- Substantial visual impairment
- Substantial auditory impairment
- G-tube feeding
- Seizure Disorder
Today Robert lives near his parents in an institution well equipped to appropriately care for his needs and maximize his quality of life. The cost of maintaining Robert in this setting is approximately $125,000.00 per year. Other costs associated with his care and special needs are staggering, especially for a family of ordinary means with other children.
Robert’s condition was the direct result of medical negligence by Mom’s doctor and the hospital, and should not have occurred.
Who should be charged with the financial responsibility of Robert’s lifetime care? His family, who did nothing but follow the instructions of the doctor and hospital staff? You and I as taxpayers? The liability insurance company for the doctor and hospital who caused his condition?
Robert’s parents were suspicious about the circumstances of his birth and hired the attorneys at Dungan & LeFevre to perform a medical/legal review of the care provided. After an intensive review of the medical records associated with mom’s care, the delivery, and Robert’s various impairments, it was determined by highly qualified expert physicians that medical negligence had occurred. A lawsuit was filed against the doctor and the hospital where Robert was born. After two years of litigation, the insurance company for the doctor and the hospital settled the suit for an amount of money which ensured that Robert’s care expenses will be met for the balance of his lifetime and provided compensation to his parents.
Most of the settlement was arranged by the attorneys at Dungan & LeFevre to be placed in a trust which allows Robert’s Social Security and Medicaid benefits to continue and provide for his special needs. At the end of Robert’s lifetime, the government will be repaid for the benefits extended to Robert and any surplus will be distributed to his family.
The lawsuit did not heal Robert. It did, however, guarantee resources for Robert’s care throughout his lifetime. It relieved his family of that financial burden. It compensated the family, in part, for its loss. It placed responsibility for Robert’s condition on those who caused it. Restitution was made for his injury to the extent that our system of laws will allow.
The birth of a child with physical or cognitive impairments can be overwhelming for a family. Even though there may be a suspicion that substandard medical care caused the impairments, the family often does not think about a medical/legal investigation of the circumstances and quality of care, because there are more immediate overwhelming issues to confront.
Even years later, the family is still struggling with the overwhelming financial requirements of providing appropriate care and training for their child. A medical/legal review of suspicious circumstances concerning the quality of prenatal, labor and delivery and newborn care can still be done. The statute of limitations (one year) for the child’s causes of action does not begin to run until eighteen years of age or even longer. A careful review of the relevant medical records by well qualified medical negligence lawyers and medical experts may identify substandard medical care, which remains actionable at law presently.