The death of a child during pregnancy (stillbirth) or shortly after is a traumatic event. Many parents who come to us want to know why their child died. Sadly, the very obstetrical caregivers whose job it is to protect a baby’s safety are sometimes responsible for its death. In many cases, these deaths were preventable and were caused by negligent doctors, nurses, or ineffective hospital policies.
The Ohio wrongful death attorneys at The Becker Law Firm represent parents whose child died due to medical malpractice. Our founder, attorney Michael Becker, has more than 30 years of experience helping parents obtain financial compensation for their losses. Obstetrical caregivers must meet a reasonable standard of care when attending to their patients. If they fail to do so and a baby dies because of it, our lawyers can work to hold them responsible for the damages caused by their negligence.
Reach out to our legal team at (440) 252-4399. We offer free, confidential consultations.
How Medical Malpractice Leads to Wrongful Infant Death
The major risks to babies during pregnancy and around the time of labor and delivery are:
- Oxygen Deprivation: Not only can oxygen deprivation cause brain damage, but too much oxygen deprivation can be fatal to a baby in the womb. Obstetricians and nursing staff must be trained to recognize the warning signs that a baby may have too little oxygen. That lack of oxygen can be caused by an umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, overwhelming stresses of labor, or problems with the placenta.
- Reduced Blood Flow: Like problems with oxygen deprivation, reduced blood flow to a baby in utero can be fatal. Blood is needed to carry oxygen and other vital nutrients to baby’s developing brain and other organs. When that blood flow is cut off or reduced for too long, the organs will shut down.
- Trauma During Delivery: Difficult deliveries must be met calmly by obstetricians. When a delivery is complicated by a baby in distress, whether because of concerning fetal monitor strips or shoulder dystocia, doctors must deliver the baby on an emergency basis. Whether because of inexperience, lack of preparation, or a simple mistake, doctors who encounter these emergencies sometimes act negligently. Too much trauma to a baby using a vacuum extractor or forceps can cause permanent injury or death. Likewise, an improperly performed C-section can be fatal to the baby.
Antepartum Hemorrhage (Bleeding During Pregnancy)
- Placenta Previa: Placenta previa is the implantation of the placenta near or on top of the cervix. Women with this condition often have sudden vaginal bleeding, usually after 28 weeks. It affects half of one percent of all labors. Women with placenta previa should usually be treated with modified bed rest and strict pelvic rest. In some cases, that can prevent damage long enough so that the baby is not premature at delivery. Wrongful death of baby’s because of placenta previa usually occurs because of complications of prematurity.
- Placental Abruption: When the placenta prematurely separates from the wall of the uterus, internal bleeding can result. It is responsible for about 15% of all baby deaths near the time of labor.
- Uterine Rupture: When the uterine wall is breached, both the mother and child’s lives are at risk. These ruptures can occur at any time near labor but are most common when the mother has prior uterine scars, like prior surgeries or cesarean sections. In the labor and delivery room, medical malpractice including excessive pushing on the stomach (to assist in delivery) or improper use of Oxytocin/Pitocin can cause uterine rupture. It is rare, occurring in about 1% of all deliveries. When detected, the baby must be delivered immediately.
Why Pursue a Child Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit can provide financial compensation for medical bills, grief, and emotional suffering. When the death of a fetus or child is involved, however, the case is more about justice than about money.
When a child dies, there are several categories of damages that a judge or jury can order the negligent doctor or health care provider to pay. These include:
- Cost of medical care to the child between negligence and death
- Funeral costs
- Non-economic damages to beneficiaries (usually the parents): mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of love, companionship and support
The majority of damages in cases of child wrongful death are non-economic damages. The amount of money that a judge or jury awards is dependent on many things, particularly the effect of the child’s death on the parents and the location of the lawsuit.