One in eight babies in the United States is born prematurely each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These infants, also referred to as preterm babies, are more likely to suffer from devastating health problems in the days, weeks and years following birth. Sadly, they are also more likely to die from those problems. Premature deliveries are the leading cause of death among newborns.
A normal pregnancy typically lasts around 40 weeks. Babies are considered premature if they are born before 37 weeks. Although a three-week difference may not seem like a long time, there are still crucial changes happening inside the womb. The baby’s immune system is weak and vital organs, including the brain, are not fully developed. According to the March of Dimes, even babies who are “late preterm” (between 34-36 weeks) are in danger. They are six times more likely to die in the first week than full-term newborns, and are three times more likely to die within the first year.
Most of the time, women go into premature labor unexpectedly. In other cases, doctors might choose to deliver a baby preterm because the risks to the mother and infant outweigh the potential problems that might result from an early birth. However, because preterm babies are so vulnerable, they require careful monitoring and often spend weeks or months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
If a doctor or other member of your medical team failed to notice or treat problems in your preemie, you may have a legal claim against them. The Michigan birth injury attorneys at Michigan Injury Lawyers can help you evaluate your case to determine if your preterm baby suffered a needless injury. If that is the case, our birth injury lawyers will work to help you secure compensation for expenses related to the injury, including costly future medical care.
A Closer Look At Hospital Negligence
Hospital negligence is defined as the failure of hospital staff to provide the accepted standard of care, resulting in a patient’s injury or illness. Hospital staff can include nurses, medical technicians or other support professionals, as well as physicians. Somemalpractice claims resulting from a hospital injury may involve a physician directly, while others may involve the hospital – the circumstances of your injury determine who could be held liable.
Hospital negligence can take many forms. Some of the most common instances of hospital negligence include the following:
- Surgical errors;
- Labor and delivery errors;
- Medication errors;
- Anesthesia errors;
- Failure to respond to patient;
- Failure to properly monitor patient;
- Communication errors that result in delayed or incorrect treatment;
- Improper patient discharge;
- Failure to provide patients with post-operative directions;
- Improper supervision of a new staff member, such as a nurse or nurse’s assistant;
- Misplaced files;
- Poor sanitation of medical instruments and hospital rooms;
- Hospital abuse.
Regardless of the cause, the consequences of hospital negligence can be very dangerous. A poorly monitored patient’s condition may quickly worsen, causing long-term damage. Unsanitary conditions can lead to deadly infections. Mistakes in medication can have fatal complications.
Medical Problems and Your Preterm Baby
Some babies are born so prematurely that they can fit inside the palm of your hand. While those children will undoubtedly struggle for survival, even babies born a few weeks early can have significant complications after birth. Some of them can be treated and cause only short-term problems, but others can create lasting problems that can cause significant financial and emotional strains on families.
Babies who are born prematurely are more likely to suffer immediately from:
- Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS): Approximately 23,000 babies are born with RDS each year. Babies with RDS lack a protein called surfactant that keeps small air sacs within the lungs from collapsing.
- Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA): This heart condition occurs when a large artery that leads blood away from the lungs fails to close after delivery. Failure to diagnose PDA can cause heart failure.
- Brain hemorrhages;
Long-term consequences that can result from a premature delivery include:
- Mental retardation;
- Cerebral palsy;
- Respiratory problems;
- Vision and hearing loss;
- Feeding and digestive problems.
Recent studies have also linked premature babies with an increased likelihood of autism and a predisposition to various health disorders as an adult, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Common Sources of Negligence during Your Preterm Delivery
Going into labor prematurely can be sudden, but some expectant mothers may be more likely to deliver preterm than other mothers. When doctors fail to take into account certain risk factors or fail to diagnose threatening conditions throughout the pregnancy, it can have disastrous consequences for premature infants and their families.
Several risk factors predispose a woman to a premature delivery. These include:
- Multiple births, such as twins or triplets;
- A previous preterm delivery;
- Uterine or cervix disorders;
- Being underweight;
- High blood pressure;
- Clotting disorders;
- A short time between pregnancies;
- Pregnancy through in vitro fertilization.
Medical providers may be vulnerable to a medical malpractice lawsuit for a premature delivery if they:
- Fail to diagnose pregnancy-induced illnesses such as hypertension or gestational diabetes;
- Fail to perform a cesarean section promptly;
- Do not detect or treat signs of distress on fetal heart monitor or ultrasounds;
- Fail to recognize and treat premature rupture of membranes (PROM), which can cause fetal exposure to bacteria, umbilical cord problems and injuries resulting from reduced oxygen;
- Miss signs of jaundice, which can lead to a deadly condition called kernicterus;
- Neglect to administer drugs to stop preterm labor;
- Fail to administer corticosteroids when a premature birth is inevitable, which can speed up lung development to avoid RDS, brain bleeds and death;
- Fail to diagnose certain infections, such as Group B strep;
- Do not treat dehydration, malnutrition, or other disorders.
Has Your Premature Baby Been Harmed? Call Our Preterm Delivery Lawyers Today
If your baby was born early and now has long-term problems as a result, it is possible that the injury resulted from negligence on the part of your medical practitioner or the NICU staff. The birth injury attorneys at Michigan Injury Lawyers can review your case and advise you of possible legal remedies.
Call Michigan Injury Lawyers at 313-438-4357, or contact us for a free evaluation of your claim. If there is no recovery in your case, there is no fee for our services.