Lack Of Oxygen To Baby’s Brain: Is It Medical Malpractice in South Carolina?
Bringing a new life into the world is normally a joyful experience for families, but in some unfortunate cases, this fragile process can turn into heartbreak. An injury to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth can lead to a lifetime of damage. One such injury is oxygen deprivation to the infant’s brain, medically known as hypoxia, perinatal asphyxia, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
Even a few moments of oxygen deprivation can lead to severe brain damage or neurological disorders for the baby. An affected fetus may develop cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, visual impairment, autism, or other forms of intellectual disability. Those who suffer mild HIE may be predisposed to ADHD, schizophrenia, or other psychotic syndromes later on. Meanwhile, infants with severe oxygen deprivation may not survive at all.
Given such consequences, it is entirely natural for parents to feel devastated when they discover this brain injury to their baby. Parents often attribute the injury to a physician’s error, and indeed, many have succeeded in medical malpractice cases against their infant’s doctors and childbirth professionals.
However, some cases of hypoxia or HIE are sadly unavoidable and no one’s fault. It is important for parents to recognize this, just as it is important to look out for any form of malpractice.
Negligence Is The Basis Of Medical Malpractice
To bring a valid medical malpractice case, it is not enough to identify that something went wrong and caused the infant’s injury. The mishap must have been due to the medical negligence of a doctor, nurse, midwife, or caregiver. The following elements must be established to show that a medical professional was negligent:
- The medical professional had a standard of care to uphold during the procedure. The “standard of care” is the level of care and skill that is expected of the professional – it’s what a similarly-trained professional would have done in the same or similar situation. For example, an OB-GYN is trained to recognize problems with the infant’s status in the womb, and a childbirth physician is expected to act quickly when the delivery procedure becomes dangerous.
- The medical professional failed to uphold the standard. Whether by action or inaction, a doctor or medical staff can fail to demonstrate the care and skill expected of them. A physician, for example, may fail to order a needed C-section delivery in time. (See more examples below.) The issue is whether the care giver breached the applicable standard of care.
- The professional’s failure caused harm to the infant. There has to be a causal connection between the doctor’s failure to act appropriately and the baby’s injury. If the injury was unavoidable there is no legal case. Likewise, if the injury was preventable through the use of due care or reasonable action, then liability will rest with the care giver.
Parents often see signs of malpractice or find reasons to doubt the doctor’s work. But the elements above will have to be established legally. To support their claim, parents will need concrete medical evidence, strong testimonies from experts, and the sharp reasoning of an injury lawyer.
Causes Of Hypoxia And Examples Of Medical Negligence
These are some scenarios where a baby’s oxygen deprivation or HIE may be avoidable. Failure of medical professionals in these cases can potentially give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- Low maternal blood pressure. Since oxygen in the body is carried by blood, a drastic change in the mother’s blood pressure can be dangerous for the infant in the womb. One of the causes of low blood pressure in a mother is the excessive use of anesthesia.
- High maternal blood pressure (preeclampsia). Likewise, high blood pressure can interfere with the infant’s oxygen supply. Medical staff must monitor a pregnant woman’s blood pressure and manage preeclampsia when symptoms show.
- Nuchal cord. This is the medical term for when an umbilical cord wraps around a fetus’ neck. Any infant delivery team is expected to act quickly to correct this problem.
- Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD). This is when the baby is too large to fit through the mother’s birth canal. Childbirth professionals should recognize this problem and apply a timely response, such as arranging for Caesarian delivery.
- Breech birth. Babies are normally born head-first, but in a breech presentation, the child’s feet or buttocks are the first to enter the birth canal. Obstetricians are expected to diagnose this in pregnant women, and attempt to correct it by turning the baby in the womb using medical techniques. Delivery staff must also be proactive and quick acting during a breech birth.
- Umbilical cord prolapse. The umbilical cord supplies the fetus’ oxygen and nutrients. A prolapse occurs when the cord drops out first during childbirth, presenting a great risk that the baby’s body would compress it or squeeze it closed as it passes through the birth canal. Doctors typically order an emergency C-section when this happens.
- Infection on mother or baby. There are various infections that can develop during the delicate process of pregnancy and childbirth. Medical professionals are expected to practice the utmost care so that these avoidable conditions never occur.
- Failing to monitor vital signs. Throughout pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, it is important for doctors to watch the vital signs of both mother and baby, such as their blood pressure, heart rate, and fetal movement. Any irregularities must be examined as they could indicate problems that need a swift medical response.
Contact A Reliable South Carolina Birth Injury Law Firm
If you suspect that your baby’s brain injury was due to medical negligence, don’t hesitate to talk to a trusted lawyer to help you get to the bottom of the case.
In South Carolina, Kassel McVey has helped families like yours with their malpractice case. Our firm’s competent attorneys are supported by our network of respected medical professionals, and we can help make sense of your baby’s injury from both a medical and legal standpoint.
Whether you simply want clear answers at this point, or you want to know your legal options, or you have already decided to pursue a lawsuit, we can provide the legal service you need.
Call Kassel McVey today at (803) 256-4242.
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Columbia, South Carolina 29202
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