In the United States and other industrialized nations, advances in medicine have made childbirth much safer than it has ever been before. The infant mortality rate in the United States is down more than 80% from what it was in 1955. But while modern childbirth has significantly improved in terms of safety and success rates, it is still not without its risks. One such major risk is birth injury, in which medical malpractice during the birthing process turns a healthy child into one who is disabled or worse, all because of little more than a simple mistake. One may see the sad reality of birth injuries up close in the recent case of a Sauk Village child, who was left with severe brain damage because of alleged medical errors.
Overuse of Labor-Inducing Drug
In January 2011, Nyelle Brown, now six years old, was delivered at Franciscan St. James Health in Chicago Heights. In their 2013 medical malpractice lawsuit, Nyelle’s family claimed that hospital personnel overused Pitocin, a labor-inducing drug. “Overdosing” Nyelle’s mother with Pitocin allegedly resulted in an excessive number of contractions that occurred too closely together and were too strong, stopping blood flow and oxygen delivery to the child’s brain and resulting in serious damage.
Failure to Act Quickly Enough
In addition to the damage caused by the overuse of the drug, Nyelle’s family further alleged that her injuries during the birthing process were made worse because of the hospital staff’s “failure to act quickly enough” when she began to show signs of distress. Nyelle’s lawyers argued that the medical professionals should have worked more quickly to perform a cesarean section when it was clear that the excessive contractions were causing her injury.
As a result of this alleged negligence, Nyelle now suffers from cerebral palsy, a group of brain disorders usually caused during pregnancy or delivery that harm brain functioning, body movement, and muscle coordination. Her brain damage has left her unable to talk, walk, or take care of herself “in any meaningful way,” and she will likely need extensive therapy and medical treatment in the future.
While not admitting to liability, the Defendants recently agreed to settle the matter for $15 million. The settlement was approved by Cook County Circuit Judge Kathy Flanagan, who subsequently dismissed the case on July 24.
Because of Nyelle’s youth, First Midwest Bank was appointed as the guardian of her estate, with a financial professional assigned to manage the money, ensuring that her needs are taken care of and that all money is used only for the child’s benefit.
Sobering Statistics About Birth Injury
As tragic as Nyelle’s story is, it is sadly a far too common one. Of every 1,000 babies born in the United States, an estimated six to eight of them suffer some sort of birth injury. This means that approximately 28,000 American infants are born each year with birth injuries, or a startling three per hour.
Birth injuries can run the gamut from very mild to very severe, as in Nyelle’s case. Her condition, cerebral palsy, is sadly one of the ten most common birth injuries in the country, with approximately 500,000 Americans affected, though it is far from the only one. Other common birth injuries include the following:
• Bone Fractures
• Erb’s Palsy
• Facial Paralysis
• Spinal Cord Injury
• Intracraneal Hemorrhage
• Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (Broken Blood Vessels in the Eye)
• Perinatal Asphyxia
• Caput Succedaneum
Causes of Birth Injury
While distressingly all too common, in many cases birth injuries are preventable. According to one study, roughly 30% of all birth injuries are caused by communication errors between medical staff members regarding patient health information and medical history.
Inappropriate administration of drugs, failure to monitor for and detect fetal distress, and delayed cesarean sections – all of which were allegedly contributing factors in Nyelle’s condition – are also common causes of birth injury. Additional factors include misdiagnosis, improper use of assistive tools, such as forceps, and umbilical cord problems.
Birth Injury Litigation
It is a parent’s worst nightmare. You hoped for only the best for your newborn, only to see your child injured at birth, possibly for life, all because of seemingly preventable errors. It can be difficult to know who to blame, or whether to blame anyone at all. At times like these, you may find you need to talk to someone with experience, like the birth injury lawyers at GWC Injury Lawyers.
If you believe your child was the victim of a birth injury, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives today.