Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death. In addition to infant death, preterm birth plays a role in a number of serious and permanent neurological disorders the most serious of which is cerebral palsy.
Although preterm birth is often beyond the control of the medical providers, there are many cases where clear warning signs were present suggesting necessary medical intervention to minimize risks of harm to the child. When these warning signs are neglected or ignored and the baby is harmed, there may be claim for medical malpractice against the medical providers.
1 in 10 Babies Born Prematurely
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that in 2014, 1 in 10 babies were born prematurely. Preterm birth is defined as birth coming at 37 weeks or earlier. Infant viability is somewhere in the area of 21 weeks but it survival rates are very low at that point.
The risks of harm or death to the baby go up with each week below 37 weeks. The infant is developing all the way through pregnancy and birth. It is important to ensure the baby’s health to avoid a preterm birth to the degree possible.
Preterm Birth is Not Always Preventable
Preterm birth is not always preventable by either the mother or the medial providers. However, there are definite warning signs related to the condition and habits of the mother. These conditions are often treatable or avoidable by either the mother or the medical providers.
Naturally, the medical provider cannot control the habits of the mother. On the other hand, the medical providers should inform the mother of the risks associated with habits such as drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Likewise, not all maternal health conditions are entirely preventable. But most are manageable and therefore should be managed.
Risks of Preterm Birth Can Be Minimized
Because the risks and causes of preterm birth are so well established, it is very important for both the mother and the medical providers to take steps to protect against it. This means the mother needs to adjust her lifestyle if she does engage in behavior that increases the risks of preterm birth.
The medical providers have a duty as well to fully inform the mother of the various risks. In addition, there are medical conditions that clearly indicate heightened risks of preterm birth and many of these are either plainly apparent (extremely low or high maternal weight). Others should show up in the patient medical charts and records such as diabetes, prior preterm births, assisted reproductive technology. Others should be routinely tested for if there is any indication of its presence such as pre-eclampsia, high maternal blood pressure, a variety of infections, and carrying more than one baby.
Preterm Birth Risks and Prevention is Complex and Challenging
Preterm birth is difficult to fully avoid. If it were not, 1 in 10 children would not be born prematurely. However, due to the extremely serious possible consequences, it important for the mother and the medical providers to work together to minimize the risks so that it can be avoided where possible.
Keep in mind two things:
1. This is a very simplified list. It is extremely important to discuss all the various risks with your medical providers.
2. A medical provider can help only with those issues of which he or she is aware. It is extremely important to be both honest and complete in any questionnaires or interviews conducted by the medical provider.
You Have Right to Answers
In cases of death or serious harm to a baby due to preterm birth, it can be difficult to determine what happened. Specifically, it is hard to tell what could or should have been done that could have altered the outcome. But the parents and family have a right to know.
Unfortunately, many if not most medical providers are not particularly keen on admitting mistakes no matter how obvious or how awful the outcome. Despite all the hysteria over medical malpractice lawyers, an experienced medical malpractice attorney is often the only place where a parent and family can get the answers they deserve.
Attorney and Medical Expert Review of Medical Records
The attorney will review the file in stages:
1. Initial Review of Information Provided by the Family,
2. If #1 suggests it, the attorney will then review the medical records provided by the family,
3. If #2 suggests, the attorney will send all the medical records to a medical expert for a full medical review of the file.
If the expert says there was medical malpractice, the attorney will then initiate the appropriate medical malpractice claims process which almost invariably ends in a lawsuit due to the aforementioned reluctance of medical providers to admit fault.
The Albuquerque law firm of Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958 .