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Birth Injuries & Medical Malpractice

There is nothing more exciting in life than welcoming a new member into the family. In fact, societies across the world celebrate pregnancy and birth through a multitude of rituals designed to recognize this wonderful renewal of the life cycle. In the United States, there are baby showers, gifts, balloons, cards, new toys, new bedrooms, and lots of excitement. And fortunately, most pregnancies and births go just as nature plans, complete with a healthy baby and a healthy mother.

Sadly though, things sometimes go wrong. Every year, there are complications with thousands of pregnancies and births. Some babies are born with birth injuries, birth defects, and other abnormal conditions. Some babies need surgery, and worse yet, some do not survive. Similarly, some mothers suffer complications during pregnancy or delivery resulting in injury and death. While some of these tragic consequences are natural, others are caused by medical malpractice and could have been prevented.

What Are Birth Injuries?

People define “birth injury” differently, but in this article we are discussing injury or death occurring during pregnancy, at the time of birth, or shortly after the time of birth. Some of these injuries can be quite mild, without lingering effects. Others, however, can be very serious. While some injuries are immediately apparent, a complicating factor is that some injuries and conditions may not appear until much later.

Common Birth Injuries

According to Stanford Children’s Health, the following are some common birth injuries to babies.

  • Facial paralysis and bruising – pressure on the face or other parts of a baby’s body during the birth process can cause bruising. Even worse, the pressure can sometimes damage the facial nerve. This can be caused by trauma in the mother’s body, and also by the use of forceps. Minor injuries can heal naturally in a short time. More severe injuries can require surgery.
  • Brachial Palsy – the Brachial Plexus is a group of nerves that start in the spine and eventually branch out to control various parts of the arm. Damage to these nerves can result in paralysis to different parts of the child’s arm. (If the nerve damage only impacts the elbow and shoulder, it is called Erb’s Palsy). These injuries can result when the child’s neck, shoulder, or head are stretched. Sometimes, surgery is required. Unfortunately, damage can sometimes be permanent.
  • Fractures – the baby can suffer bone fractures during labor and delivery. The clavicle (collarbone) is the most common.
  • Other common injuries include: cephalohematoma; subconjunctival hemorrhage; caput succedaneum; and facial paralysis. Links are provided at the conclusion of this article which discuss each of these birth injuries in greater detail.

Proving Medical Malpractice

In Oregon, to prove medical malpractice, a plaintiff must provide evidence showing that a medical professional failed to meet the applicable standard of care. This means that the professional must demonstrate the same level of skill or care that other similar providers would exhibit under the same or similar circumstances. But keep in mind that it’s not just physicians that commit malpractice. Mistakes can be made throughout the healthcare system. This includes nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, and any other person or entity that negligently causes injury to the child or mother.

Call with Questions

No one is more thankful than the lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield for the tremendous service provided by the medical profession in working to ensure the health and safety of babies and their mothers. But we also believe that the only way to make sure that these professionals provide the level of service demanded by society is to hold those accountable who do not meet the legal standard of care. We understand that the practice of medicine is complicated, and that investigating birth injuries can be difficult. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help and will be happy to answer your questions.