One in 33 babies, or 3% of all babies, are born with serious birth defects in the United States. Globally, at least 3.3 million children under 5 years of age die as the result of serious birth defects. While some birth defects are unavoidable, medical studies show that 85.3% of congenital birth defects, or defects that are present at birth, are preventable or curable after the child is born.
Maryland Birth Defects Medical Malpractice
Birth defects are structural or functional abnormalities that are present at birth that may result in mental or physical disability. They can be cause by genetics, chromosome structures, or environmental factors. Children with birth defects are likely to suffer illness and disability, and currently birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality during the first year of life.
Types of Birth Defects
There are four main types of birth defects:
These involve the chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy and transport and remove chemicals and waste products. Common defects from metabolic disorders include: Tay-Sachs disease (progressive weakness with severe nerve damage, usually resulting in very early death), Galactosemia (diminished ability to breakdown a type of sugar in the body that can lead to jaundice or liver enlargement), and Phenylketonuria (a deficiency in a type of enzyme that leads to mental retardation).
Sensory problems occur when the development and/or function of the sensory organs has been impaired. These can result in vision problems, hearing loss or deafness, or in conditions like Congenital Rubella (a condition commonly passed from mother to child that results in hearing loss and cataracts) or Williams syndrome (a syndrome that results in cardiovascular disease and learning disabilities among other defects).
Degenerative disorders affect body parts or systems, causing them to deteriorate. Babies born with degenerative disorders may seem healthy at birth, and later will start to loose functions and experience delayed development. Examples of degenerative disorders include Rett syndrome (a syndrome that affects predominately females and causes delayed or slowed development, seizers, and intellectual disabilities), and muscular dystrophy (a group of diseases that create progressive weakness and often result in an inability to walk, or even breath).
Nervous system and brain problems
Nervous system and brain birth defects are the result of development issues in the brain and/or nervous system. Examples of these defects include Down Syndrome (a syndrome that results from an extra chromosome and results in unusually low muscle tone and intellectual disability) and Prader-Willi syndrome (a syndrome that results in loss of function for certain genes and causes delayed development and intellectual impairment among many other defects).
According to the March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects, the five most common serious birth defects were:
- Congenital heart defects (1,040,835 births)
- Neural tube defects (323,904 births)
- Hemoglobin disorders, thalassemia, and sickle cell disease (307,897 births)
- Down syndrome (trisomy 21) (217,293 births)
- Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency (177,032 births)
Causes of Birth Defects
While the majority of birth defects have no detectable cause, about 25% of birth defects are caused by genetic or hereditary factors, and 15% are caused by environmental factors. The remaining 60% of birth defects are caused by multiple factors that include environmentally-induced genetic changes, and unknown factors.
Preventing Birth Defects
There are many steps your doctor can take to help prevent and treat birth defects. Doctors can detect and treat birth defects by using preventative techniques, early detection, or through surgical intervention after birth.
Your doctor should make you aware of factors that could harm your baby like alcohol, tobacco, insecticides, cleaning chemicals, radiation, and certain medications, and should recommend vaccinations and multivitamin and folic acid supplements to help prevent defects. A study done in Hungary found that over 26% of congenital abnormalities were prevented due to multivitamin and folic acid supplements
Your doctor can also use early detection to prevent and treat birth defects. The same study found that over 25% of congenital abnormalities are preventable or treatable through early detection.
Approximately 33% of birth defects are treatable through surgical intervention right after birth.
Negligence and Medical Malpractice in Detecting Birth Defects
According to medical studies, 70% of congenital heart defects go undetected until birth, three-quarters of babies with missing limbs are not detected as abnormal until birth, and over half of all Down syndrome cases are overlooked.
Your doctor should abide by a standard of care that dictates that any other regular doctor in her position would provide that same level of care. Your doctor's negligence in detecting or treating complications during pregnancy, can result in further health issues for the mother and child.
Families also have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy if serious medical conditions are found in the child in utero. If doctors fail to monitor the health of the mother and baby, they take that choice away from families, and possibly contribute to more serious medical conditions at birth.
Birth Defect Damages In Baltimore Medical Malpractice Cases
Doctors are not accountable for most birth defects, but they are responsible for helping parents understand congenital diseases, and for monitoring the baby and mother for birth defects and providing the best possible care for both to alleviate complications.
If your family has suffered serious damage as the result of a doctor's negligence in dealing with a birth defect, we can help you determine whether you have a medical malpractice case. Contact us for a free birth defects malpractice case evaluation.
A wrongful death during pregnancy and birth is the death of the newborn baby, the baby in utero, or of the mother during pregnancy or birth. Dealing with such losses is incredibly devastating to families, but if your family has lost someone due to negligence during pregnancy or birth, you should have an attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and right to compensation.
Wrongful Death of Mother
The US has the highest maternal death rate among all the developed nations. Currently the rate is about 19 women out of every 100,000 births. Most of these deaths are preventable, and result from complications during the pregnancy that went undiagnosed and untreated, or from treatable complications during birth.
Chronic health conditions— like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension—that affect millions of women in the United States pose even greater health threats when a woman becomes pregnant. Medical studies have found that though these chronic conditions are on the rise in the US, proper care for them may be lagging.
If the death of a woman during pregnancy or birth is the result of negligent care or action by her doctor, the family has a right to legal action and compensation.
Wrongful Death of Baby in Utero or Newborn
The US also has an unusually high stillbirth rate, with 1 in every 160 births resulting in a stillbirth. Many complications chronic health conditions that can lead to the death of a mother during birth may also contribute to the stillbirth rate.
Still, proper diagnoses and treatment can be used to prevent such serious results. Doctors should provide the best possible care to diagnose and treat serious conditions in the mother that could affect the baby, and should be able to recognize signs of fetal distress or other complications with the baby during pregnancy or delivery.
Death of a baby in utero or of a newborn can be the result of ignored fetal distress, including reduced access to oxygen or a reduced blood flow, serious delivery injuries, or hemorrhaging or excessive bleeding in the mother during birth.
Wrongful Death Damages
If your family has suffered a loss from a negligent death during pregnancy or delivery, you have legal rights and are eligible for compensation. Though no actions can remedy the loss in your life, compensation can help pay for medical bills or to provide for a child's future. Contact the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian to learn about your legal options.