In both a direct and indirect sense, time is the leading cause of delivery room injuries to newborn infants. If the baby does not drop down the birth canal as normal, due to shoulder dystocia (the baby is in the wrong position, or is simply too large, to pass safely through the birth canal) or some other condition, doctors have less than five minutes to safely deliver the infant.
That’s because the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck, and while this action does not strangle the baby, it does cause hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain). If the brain does not have enough oxygen, it starts shutting down bodily functions one by one. While cerebral palsy, the condition that results from hypoxia, is treatable, it is not curable, so the injuries that the babies sustain in their first few minutes of life are permanent.
As the clock ticks down, doctors often make very poor decisions, including the ones discussed below.
Sometimes, the doctor feels like a little extra force can pull the baby from the birth canal. That;s especially true if part of the baby’s body, such as a leg or arm, has already emerged.
The problem is that doctors often overestimate the size and strength of a newborn. These babies are extremely small and extremely fragile; they look nothing like the “newborns” frequently seen on television. Even a little extra pull often causes Erb’s Palsy, which is permanent nerve damage to the brachial plexus area under the baby’s arm. Erb’s Palsy children have droopy faces and often have no control over their arms. Much like Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy is permanent and incurable.
These instruments, which are essentially surgically-altered salad tongs, have not changed very much since they first appeared about 200 years ago. Rather than pull on the exposed head, the doctor grasps it with the large end of the forceps and then tries to pull the baby out.
Such a technique is probably safer than a simple tug, since there is no risk of Erb’s Palsy, but it is still incredibly dangerous. Since their skulls are so thin, forceps-assisted deliveries often leave large imprints on the baby’s forehead. Additionally, such deliveries often cause brain damage as well, because if the doctor squeezes even slightly too much, the force will literally crush the baby’s brain.
This device is usually a metal cap that’s attached to a surgical vacuum pump. The doctor fixes the cap on the top of the baby’s head and then turns on the pump to literally suck the baby out of the mother’s womb. Surgical pumps like these are usually completely safe to use on adults and even children, but when used on vulnerable newborns, serious injury often results. Some possible wounds include:
- Skull fracture,
- Cerebral hemorrhage, and
- Permanent scars.
Damages in all these cases include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, along with noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Substantial punitive damages are usually available in these cases as well.
Contact Experienced Attorneys
Desperate doctors often negligently cause serious injuries in the delivery room. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).
From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.