These Things Don’t Always Just Happen: Empowering Parents of Children with Birth Injuries
“I’m so sorry. We did everything we could, but sometimes these things just happen.”
These are words no one ever wants to hear from a doctor. But they can be particularly painful for new parents or people who were eagerly expecting to be new parents. Learning your pregnancy is not viable or that your newborn has sustained an injury in-utero, during delivery, or shortly after birth can be one of the worst moments of a person’s life.
Sometimes the medical provider will be able to explain what happened to cause this tragedy. Other times they will not know why an injury has occurred. In either case, unless an obvious and undeniable medical error has occurred, they will not offer any suggestion that they, other staff or the medical facility bear responsibility.
Doctors and other medical professionals are held in very high esteem by society. We trust them with our lives and overwhelmingly accept their advice and opinion when it comes to our health care. If a medical professional tells us they did everything they could, we want to believe them. But should we only accept their word for it?
In this blog, I explain the importance for the loved ones of a child who has sustained a birth injury to empower themselves in the search for answers about what happened. By allowing our deference to doctors to limit what we are able to learn about a tragic medical event, we may inadvertently lose opportunities to obtain support for our children and/or a sense of closure for ourselves.
The onus is on the parent/guardian.
Unless an adverse medical event meets specific criteria required for a hospital to launch an investigation into the matter, it is up to a patient and/or their loved ones to decide whether they want to search for answers or to seek a second opinion. When it comes to birth injuries, that search can lead in several directions.
If the child has survived, they will continue to receive medical care from the obstetrician (in the short-term), a pediatrician, family doctor, or other medical specialists or health care providers. These medical professionals may not be interested in searching for injury causation or it may be out of their area of experience. Instead, they will likely focus on treating the child’s symptoms.
While they may not suggest to a parent or guardian that they should investigate the circumstances behind a birth injury, they are well placed to order testing or other evaluations that could prove to be missing pieces of the puzzle.
Self-advocacy is often necessary in these situations as these health care providers may be following routine guidelines and standards of care to determine when specific testing is warranted. You may need to make a case for how these orders could make a difference for your child’s care. Unless medical malpractice is ruled out, you and your child may be missing out on an opportunity to obtain financial resources that could be used to support and enhance their care.
A personal injury lawyer can help.
If other medical providers are unable or unwilling to assist in your search for answers, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help you. When you contact a lawyer who handles birth injury cases, a preliminary review of your medical records and your child’s medical records is often the first step in evaluating whether you may have an actionable case.
In consulting medical experts and reviewing the facts of a potential case, a personal injury lawyer can determine whether the proper standards of care were followed. If there was one or more breach in the standard of care, medical experts can then explain if this breach could have caused or contributed to the birth injury.
A breach in the standard of care - even if causation is established - is not enough to successfully sue for damages, however. A civil case against a medical provider must also demonstrate the breach was the result of negligent actions or inaction on the part of a person or institution providing care.
Not blaming, but understanding and empowering.
Whether you choose to look for answers about what caused your child’s injury through medical practitioners, a personal injury lawyer, or both, it’s important to remember that this search is not necessarily one that is looking to blame anyone for what happened.
Determining what caused your child’s injury could be critical to the treatment they receive. For example, a newborn or young child may begin to present with symptoms that are marked as Cerebral Palsy - an incurable movement disorder caused by damage to the brain. Additional testing may indicate the child actually has a treatable form of dystonia - another type of movement disorder where symptoms can sometimes be reversible with prompt access to certain medications.
You may discover that your child’s injury was the result of a genetic abnormality or a chromosomal issue. Learning this information could be critical to a parent’s decision about whether to attempt future pregnancies. In other cases, a spontaneous medical event such as a placental abruption could have caused conditions where injury to the fetus occurs before a medical practitioner could reasonably intervene to prevent it. Knowing that you experienced this kind of medical condition is important information to communicate to an obstetrician during a future pregnancy as it may influence their recommendations for treatment.
Finally, if another person’s actions did cause or contribute to the injury and you can establish that you may have an actionable claim, the damages you recover from a lawsuit could significantly improve your ability to provide top quality care for your child and to ensure they have the resources they need to live their best life.
Knowledge is power.
Parents, guardians and loved ones of children who have sustained birth injuries should be empowered to learn as much as possible about what happened to their child. Whether that knowledge is used to enhance their child’s medical care, to inform decisions about fertility and family planning, to access financial resources, and/or to obtain a sense of closure after a tragic event, there is little to lose and much to gain by asking questions and looking for answers.
If your loved one sustained a birth injury and you have questions about how it happened, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers is here for you. During your free, no obligation initial consultation, we’ll listen to your story with great empathy, carefully explain your options, and offer to help in any way we can. It’s part of our commitment to full-circle client care. To learn more, contact us today.
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