The signs and symptoms of a severe perinatal birth injury to a newborn baby resulting in physical, cognitive, emotional and developmental delay are often subtle and many times not recognized and diagnosed until several years after birth. Even then, the signs are ambiguous and often mistaken for causes other than those within the control of the health care providers responsible for the care of the mother and baby. For example, some babies are born prematurely because of the negligence of a physician or obstetrician in charge of the Mother's care. Babies born prematurely, particularly those prior to 34 weeks, are at increased risk of permanent injury often because their respiratory and cerebral vascular structures are not fully developed. Because of that, premature babies often require extended stays in a special department in the hospital called the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) until these vital organs can fully develop.
Though parents of prematurely born infants should always trust their doctors, it is prudent to take certain steps to protect the legal rights of your child and you:
- Do not hesitate to ask questions concerning any problem that you believe exists with respect to the health of your child. While health care providers have an ethical obligation to act in the best interest of the patient, they are human beings subject to errors that human beings make. Doctors and nurses get tired, have problems at home and are often overworked and are thus prone to committing medical malpractice. If you reasonably believe that your healthcare provider is not acting in your or your child's best interest, confront them diplomatically in an attempt to address the problem. If they fail to address the problem, then seek a second opinion.
- Take photographs of your child in the hospital and do not hesitate to document events that you observe, particularly those that you believe are questionable. One client of ours took a cell phone picture of an abnormally high read-out on his blood pressure monitor, before which he suffered a massive stroke in the hospital that the hospital failed to timely treat. When he was discharged from the hospital and obtained a copy of his medical record, it failed to reflect the abnormally high blood pressure. In a subsequent malpractice case, we used the photograph to discredit the providers who recorded his medical care. While, it is not advisable to be intrusive and interfere with the care provided, one must remember that oftentimes the observations of a patient's family may not be reflected in the patient's medical records. This is because the record of the events related to patient care is generated solely by hospital personnel. Though health care providers are obligated to record events accurately, at times, the recorded events are slanted in favor of the hospital and its personnel to gain an advantage in subsequent medical malpractice litigation, should that arise.
- At the conclusion of the hospital stay request a full and complete copy of your child's medical records, including any imaging studies performed while in the hospital and compare the recorded events with your own recollection. By executing a valid HIPPA release, you have a right to obtain a full and complete copy of your entire medical record within a reasonable time of the request and for a reasonable charge.
- Use the medical record to help you research the medical conditions and treatment experienced by your child in an attempt to gain a rudimentary understanding of the care that was delivered and whether it appears to have been appropriate. In other words, strive to stay informed-otherwise, you may fail to appreciate in a timely manner that your child may have suffered a preventable birth injury.
- Obtain a basic understanding that there are time limits to pursuing medical malpractice cases and if you have questions about the time limits seek the advice of a qualified birth injury lawyer.
- Finally, if you believe your child has suffered an injury do not hesitate to seek the advice of a qualified medical malpractice attorney who has experience in litigating birth injury cases. At Slater and Norris, P.L.C. we have over 50 years of experience representing clients injured by negligent doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.