July 18, 2014

Common Birthing Injury - The Epidural Alternative

by Levin & Perconti

The intense pain of childbirth is handled in a variety of ways. From the holistic approach of deep breathing and meditation to the medical administering of an epidural, the American health system uses a number of different methods to help women through the challenge of labor and delivery. However, one widely used alternative in European countries is gaining ground in the United States. Nitrous oxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is commonly found in your local dentist office. According to a report in The Atlantic, domestic hospitals are increasingly considering its use for women.

Laughing gas, as it is often called, allows women in labor to experience a feeling of calm and relaxation. The substance is currently used in Finland and Canada, as well as Australia and the United Kingdom. As stated in the article, it has been in use for generations within these countries. However, as of 2011, only one percent of American hospitals were reportedly using it. According to the article's authors, its usage never “caught on in the U.S.” But that seems to be changing as the number of hospitals using the gas continues to grow. The report states that 19 hospitals and 14 birthing centers are currently preparing to offer laughing gas to their birthing mothers.

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July 10, 2014

Back to the Basics - The Dangers of Shoulder Dystocia

by Levin & Perconti

Shoulder dystocia is a rare, but potentially serious condition that occurs when a baby gets stuck during delivery. According to the health website, shoulderdystociainfo, the condition starts as a normal delivery. Once the head is delivered, the process stops because the baby's anterior shoulder gets caught on the mother's pubic bone. If the shoulder is not freed quickly, the result can be brain damage or even death. Of the approximately 4 million births in the United States, about 20,000 of these women experience shoulder dystocia.

The size of a baby's head, shoulder and chest is key to the ease or difficulty of the delivery. Generally, the fetal head is the largest of these body parts. Therefore, once it moves through the birth canal, the shoulders and chest easily follow. However, when the shoulders or chest are similar in size to the head, an increased risk of dystocia occurs. When this does occur, it is usually in larger babies or mothers with a diagnosis of diabetes. For larger babies, the access growth is often seen in the shoulders and chest.

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July 3, 2014

Are Birth Injury Numbers Higher at Military Hospitals?

by Levin & Perconti

A major perk of military service is access to military hospitals and physicians by the service member, as well as members of the immediate family. However, according to a recent report by CBS News, births occurring in military hospitals are twice as likely to involve some type of injury. The article reports that more than 50,000 babies are born in military hospitals each year. The New York Times conducted an investigation, which resulted in findings that the likelihood of injury for these infants is twice as high as those born in civilian hospitals. These numbers include pregnancy and delivery complications. The report also includes Pentagon findings that birthing mothers were more likely to hemorrhage post-delivery while in military hospitals.

According to the article, there are numerous pending medical malpractice cases, related to birthing injuries. One stems from allegations about the death of a fetus after physicians wrongly performed surgery on the mother. Between 2006 and 2010, government payments for malpractice claims reportedly exceeded $100 million. Though this number is disturbingly high, it is not a reflection of the total malpractice allegations. Active duty service members are prohibited from suing for malpractice, keeping the level of payouts relatively low. The Congressional budget office reportedly stated that, were these active duty members allowed to sue, the total government payouts would equal $300 million each year.

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June 27, 2014

Jury Awards $14.5 Million for Birth Injury

by Levin & Perconti

An Ohio jury recently awarded $14.5 million dollars to an 11-year-old boy for injuries he suffered at birth. According to the website, Cleveland.com, the jury returned a verdict against a physician and health center, finding them both liable for medical malpractice. The young boy reportedly has cerebral palsy, along with visual impairments and severe cognitive disabilities. His lawsuit made the claim that he will require medical assistance for the remainder of his life.

According to the article, the mother was 36-years-old at the time of her son's birth. She had a history of difficult pregnancy and her first baby was delivered by emergency cesarean section at 32 weeks. While pregnant with her 11-year-old, the woman reportedly went into labor three times, with each incident resulting in a hospital stay to stop labor with medication. Her last stay ended on April 4, 2003. On April 10, 2003, she was reportedly readmitted at 12:30 pm, when her water broke. According to the report, the mother asked for an immediate delivery, but was denied. She reportedly asked again for a delivery around 5:30 pm when the attending obstetrician arrived, but her request was again denied. Her son was reportedly delivered around 9:00 pm after exhibiting signs of distress. Examination showed that the baby suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, which reportedly occurred around 5:30 pm, while the mother was waiting for delivery.

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June 18, 2014

The Tragic Drownings of Area Youths Spotlight Pool Safety

by Levin & Perconti

Illinois residents are mourning the deaths of four children who tragically lost their lives in three separate drowning incidents, all over the course of a single weekend. According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, a 3-year-old boy drown in the pool of a family member. Additionally, a 4-year-old child lost his life in a country club pool and two brothers, ages 8 and 9, drowned inside of an excavated pit filled with water. These overwhelming tragedies are placing a spotlight on the importance of pool safety, especially among vulnerable children.

According to the Chicago Tribune article, the 3-year-old victim was attending a family function at the time of the drowning. Though he was initially wearing arm flotations in the pool, he removed them while eating. They were reportedly never put back on him before he returned to the pool. His father, who was nearby talking to other adults, reported that he was “all of a sudden” out of sight. The child was pronounced dead at a nearby emergency room.

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June 13, 2014

Understanding The Dangers of Ectopic Pregnancy

by Levin & Perconti

Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. This usually occurs in the fallopian tube and is commonly referred to as a tubal pregnancy. During a normal pregnancy, fertilization occurs in the tubes and the egg is then moved to the uterus by hairs on the walls of the fallopian tubes. If the tube is blocked or injured in some way, the egg may become stuck and begin to develop inside of the tube. The fetus cannot correctly grow outside of the uterus. In addition, the condition is dangerous to the health of the mother. For this reason, ectopic pregnancies are generally terminated. Though the occurrences are rare, these pregnancies are becoming more common, partly due to complications with various forms of birth control.

According to the Mayo Clinic, initial signs of an ectopic pregnancy are no different from those of a healthy pregnancy. A woman may experience nausea and missed periods. As the pregnancy advances, the mother may reportedly feel pains in the abdomen and pelvis. Vaginal bleeding may also start to occur.

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June 5, 2014

Inmate Suing Prison for Birthing Malpractice at the Facility

by Levin & Perconti

Inmates have a constitutional right to reasonably necessary health care during incarceration. Every prison employs and/or contracts physicians to provide medical services as needed. The responsibility extends to women who are pregnant while jailed. Officials are legally obligated to provide adequate prenatal care throughout the pregnancy and follow accepted medical standards to ensure a safe delivery for the mother and the child.

A recent CNN article discusses a Texas prisoner who was allegedly forced to give birth while in solitary confinement, with no medical care or assistance. According to the article, the woman was arrested on drug charges. Approximately nine days later, she learned that she was eight and a half months pregnant, during an examination with a jail doctor. The woman reportedly experienced cramping later in the evening. In the court documents, she claims that a nurse examined her and informed her that her pains were not labor related. The woman was reportedly in solitary confinement at the time of the alleged events. She claims that she repeatedly asked for medical assistance, as the pains worsened throughout the night. Her requests were allegedly ignored, until early the next morning, when a guard reportedly assisted her in giving birth. According to the court complaint, the baby's umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck.http://www.levinperconti.com/lawyer-attorney-1090372.html

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May 28, 2014

Family Seeks $40 Million in Birth Injury Lawsuit After Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

by Levin & Perconti

An Oregon family recently filed a $40 million lawsuit, stemming from injuries they allege were caused by medical malpractice on the part of doctors and hospital staff during the delivery process. According to a report in the Statesman Journal, the lawsuit names three physicians, two clinics and the hospital where the birth occurred. The lawsuit alleges that the birth mother's pregnancy was uneventful, with no complications or hints of birthing issues. She reportedly went into the hospital when she was 15 days overdue, with a pre-established plan for induction of labor. According to the report, the baby's head was not positioned correctly in the cervix at the time of delivery, which prompted a C-section. When the baby was born, the doctor's reportedly found that he inhaled meconium while still in the womb.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), meconium aspiration syndrome is a serious condition, causing inflammation within the baby's lungs and significant difficulty with breathing. Symptoms of the condition include:

*Bluish skin color
*Difficult breathing
*Rapid or no breathing
*Limpness at birth

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May 21, 2014

Can Sickle Cell Result from Medical Malpractice?

by Levin & Perconti

Sickle cell anemia is a form of disease where the red blood cells become hard and sticky, dying early. This causes a continuous red blood cell shortage. The condition gets its name from the sickle shape of the blood cells. Due to their irregular shape, they become stuck when traveling through small blood vessels, decreasing the flow of blood through the body. When this occurs, pain and infection is common. There is even a strong risk of death.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the sickle cell trait is genetic, passed on from parent to child. If a child receives a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent, he or she will carry the sickle cell trait with generally no symptoms or signs of the disease. However, if both parents carry the trait and each passes it on to a child, sickle cell disease will be present from birth.

A Pending Sickle Cell Case
In some instances, adults are aware that they carry the sickle cell trait through blood testing. That was the case with a family whose story was recently featured on Fox 32 News. The parents of a young girl knew that they were both carriers of the sickle cell trait. In order to avoid passing on the disease, the mother went to a doctor and requested a tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy. The surgery was completed and the woman was told that it was a success. Six months later, she learned that she was pregnant. A baby born with sickle cell disease and she must deal with pain and frequent medical emergencies for the remainder of her life.

Though the mother's malpractice claim against the doctor is still pending, the appellate court already made one important determination. The court ruled that, if the doctor is found negligent in his actions, he should be financially responsible for the child's sickle cell related medical expenses until she reaches the age of majority. According to the article, this is based on the doctor's alleged malpractice, knowing that a baby could be born with a genetic medical condition.

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May 14, 2014

Why are Kansas Doctors Advocating for Higher Award Caps?

by Levin & Perconti

The state of Kansas may soon see medical malpractice award caps increased from $250,000 to $350,000, according to an article by Medscape Business of Medicine. In April, the Kansas legislature voted in favor of a bill to raise the 25-year-old limits on pain and suffering malpractice awards. This move reportedly came as a surprise to many interested parties and legislative observers.

Moves by the legislature to increase award caps are commonly done in response to court determinations that the caps are unconstitutional, but Kansas lawmakers are not facing this problem. In Kansas, the court ruled in the exact opposite direction. The State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the current $250,000 limits are constitutional, giving legislatures a strong footing to maintain the caps. In the neighboring state of Missouri, the court overturned medical malpractice caps all together, ruling they were unconstitutional.

The other strange twist to this proposed legislation is the overwhelming support it reportedly received from medical doctors. According to Medscape, the Medical Society of Sedgwick County “identified passing legislation to increase the cap as one of its four most pressing issues of 2014.” Doctors from Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, are included in that organization.

Observers and interested parties are asking why these doctors, along with politicians, are so eager to raise medical malpractice caps. As reported by Medscape, experts assert that is a tactical measure of giving a little leeway in order to avoid losing the whole fight. At one end of the spectrum are anti-cap supporters, who argue against any medical malpractice award limits. At the other end of the spectrum are pro-cap supports, who feel that malpractice award limits are essential to adequate health care. These Kansas doctors are reportedly taking the middle ground between the two stances in hopes of preventing a complete ban on all malpractice caps, which is what occurred in the state of Missouri. According to reports, the Kansas legislation is currently awaiting a decision from the governor.

Medical Malpractice Caps in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, there are no medical malpractice caps on compensatory damages, which are awards to cover substantiated economic losses. Punitive awards, which are meant to punish the offending party, are not allowed in Illinois medical malpractice cases. However, non-economic damages, which include those for pain and suffering, are allowed in Illinois malpractice cases.

In 2005, the state implemented non-economic damage limits of $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals. The Illinois Court struck down this legislative attempt at creating caps in 2010, finding that the limits were unconstitutional. However, this judicial determination has not quashed the heated debate that continues to rage in Illinois over the controversial issue. While physicians continue to advocate for caps, trial attorneys continue to fight on behalf of plaintiffs, against award limits that adequately compensate parties injured from medical malpractice.

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May 7, 2014

Jaundice can Lead to Serious Injury

by Levin & Perconti

Jaundice is a common condition among newborn babies. It develops when an infant has abnormally high levels of bilirubin present inside of the blood. This substance is created by the body during the process of replacing red blood cells. Normally, the liver works to break down and remove bilirubin from the body. When that is not happening, the bilirubin causes the baby's skin and eyes to take on a yellowish tinge, which is jaundice. According to the National Institute of Health, jaundice can have serious health consequences if not treated adequately and quickly.

Most cases of mild jaundice are harmless, clearing up on its own within two to four days after birth. However, according to the NIH, any level of jaundice merits strict and regular monitoring as soon as possible. This is accomplished through a skin assessment or a blood test of bilirubin levels. If the testing process show that levels are increasing, instead of decreasing, treatment of the condition should begin while the infant is still in the hospital. The baby should feed often to promote frequent bowel movements. The body can remove excessive bilirubin through the stools.

Treatment of Jaundice

If the levels remain elevated, light therapy treatment is a viable option. The newborn is placed under a blue light, wearing only a diaper and protective eye wear. The light works to break down the bilirubin that remains inside of the blood. If the infant is sent home, the parents should receive a light therapy blanket. The NIH advises, for at home therapies:

*Allow a nurse into your home to set up the therapy and check on the levels daily
*The light source must remain on the child's skin as much as possible
*The infant must have feedings 10 to 13 times per day
*Keep a record of the number of wet and dirty diapers each day

For the most severe levels of jaundice, treatment should reportedly include an exchange transfusion, where doctor's replace the infant's blood. Physicians may also choose an intravenous treatment of antibiotics.

Though most treatment methods are successful in controlling bilirubin levels, poor diagnosis or inappropriate treatment decisions can potentially lead to significant damages. Even after the newborn leaves the hospital, the first pediatric visits should address any jaundice concerns. Though rare, jaundice can reportedly result in:

*Cerebral palsy
*Brain damage

According to the NIH, there are some steps that an OB GYN can take to detect the likelihood of significant jaundice. Blood tests to determine the mother's blood type should be done. If it is determined that the mother is Rh negative or O positive, the physician may choose to conduct a follow-up test on the infant's umbilical cord to determine whether the child's blood type is incompatible with the mother's. If physicians do not take necessary precautions and apply adequate treatments, they may be liable for further complications to the baby.

If your infant experienced significant injury from jaundice, contact an experienced attorney soon to protect your legal rights.

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May 4, 2014

HIV Medications and Birth Defects in Newborns

by Levin & Perconti

A recent study found that HIV drugs, given to women during pregnancy, pose a slightly higher risk of harm to the unborn baby. An article, published by HealthDay News, discusses the outcome of the study and weighs the risk of prescribing HIV drugs prenatally. Researchers studied more than 1,300 French children born between 1994 and 2010. All of them were born to mothers who were HIV infected and prescribed antiretroviral medications during their pregnancies. According to researchers, the drug zidovudine was associated with a 1.2 increase in the risk of heart defects among the newborns. Additionally, the drug efavirenz reportedly resulted in a 0.7 increase in the likelihood of neurological defects among the studied children.

According to the report, researchers concluded that the increase in risk is minor compared to the value of prescribing antiretroviral medications to these mothers during pregnancy. Lynne Mofenson of the National Institute of Health (NIH) was included in the article. She reportedly asserted that current prescription habits for HIV infected mothers should not be altered, because of these findings. However, she did warn that usage of these drugs should undergo continuous scrutiny.

National Institute of Health Advice to Mothers

The NIH advises pregnancy mothers with HIV to discuss various medication options with their physicians. Their website explicitly states that “some HIV/AIDS medicines may harm your baby.” It also explains that HIV infected mothers may need medications for their own health or solely to prevent the transmission of the disease to the fetus. The NIH gives the following guidelines and explanations for HIV infected mothers:

***Mothers needing anti-HIV medication for their own health can start taking prescriptions either prior to pregnancy or upon becoming pregnant.
***Mothers needing anti-HIV medication solely to prevent transmission may wait until after the first trimester to start taking the medications
***The earlier a medication regimen is started, the more effective it is in reducing the risk of transmission
***All HIV-infected pregnant women should take some form of anti-HIV medication by the second trimester of pregnancy

In regards to the best types of medication, the NIH suggests a combination that is specific to individual circumstances and needs. They also advise physicians to do the following when making prescription decisions:

***Determine whether medications are needed for the mother's health or baby's health
***Consider changes in the way that the patient's body will absorb medication due to pregnancy
***Examine and discuss the potential for birth defects and physical harm to the newborn baby

Though the research study identified two antiretroviral medications that increase the risk of birth defects, the report stated that several other medications showed no increase in the risk to newborns. When making decisions about medication regimens, physicians should weigh the various alternatives and make decisions that best protect the mother and the child. If a doctor fails to meet this duty and an injury ensues, there may be a case for medical malpractice liability.

If you were prescribed an anti-HIV medication during pregnancy and your child was born with a birth defect, a birth injury attorneys with knowledge and skill to guide you through the legal merits of your individual situation.

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