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Oxygen deprivation and birth injuries

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

When an infant’s brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen, it halts development, causing a wide variety of injuries and even death.

The scientific term for lack of oxygen flow to the brain is called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). It is usually caused by umbilical cord problems, placenta separation or bleeding or problems with the mother such as a ruptured uterus or seizures. When an infant’s brain is deprived of oxygen for five second or longer, brain cells can die.

Injuries that can occur from lack of oxygen to the brain include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Learning disabilities and delayed development
  • Hearing / vision issues
  • Seizures
  • Organ damage, including heart damage
  • Abnormal blood pressure
  • Difficulty controlling breathing
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Abnormal muscle movements

Is it medical malpractice?

Initially, HIE is often not the result of medical negligence. It becomes medical malpractice, however, when the medical team fails to recognize and take action to stop the HIE. For example, they may fail to perform an emergency C-section, improperly handle umbilical cord issues, incorrectly use forceps or fail to recognize fetal distress.

Another thing to think about: If the medical team’s actions or inactions did not cause further injury to an infant, then it will not be deemed medical malpractice. In other words, if the infant would not have been better off had the medical team acted appropriately, then the medical team is not liable for the infant’s injuries.

Nothing can stop the pain, bring back your child or take away your child’s injuries. But by holding negligent medical professionals liable for the injuries they caused, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and prevent a similar injury from happening to someone else’s child.

Source: NYU Langone Medical Center, “Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy,” 2012

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