December 31, 2011

Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed Claiming Link to Carcinogen in School

When a family suffers complications during a pregnancy or while giving birth, they often have many questions about what caused the issue and whether it could have been prevented. Losing a child or having a child born with health problems is one of the more difficult experiences that local families can go through. Yet, for all of the questions that families have in the aftermath, our Chicago birth injury attorneys know that they often face difficulty getting honest answers from those who might be able to explain what happened. Of course, at times involved medical professionals simply cannot identify with certainty why a particular problem may have developed. But at other times, the doctors may have suspicions about causes but remain silent because those causes might point to negligence on the part of another. Many Illinois birth injury lawsuits arise in just those situations.

Birth injury lawsuits are appropriate when the misconduct of others leads to problems during pregnancy or birth. Usually the misconduct is done by the medical professionals involved. But that need not always be the case. One example of this was recently highlighted in a NY Daily News story this week. The case involves a young mother-to-be who was working as a fifth grade teacher at an inner-city school when she learned that she was pregnant. Tragically, only five months into her pregnancy she learned that her developing baby had a malformed brain. The condition was known as anecephaly, and it is fatal to the child.

Following the lost pregnancy the teacher has filed a birth injury lawsuit against the school where she worked, claiming that the condition of the school building caused her child to develop the deadly abnormality. As part of the complaint which initiated the case, the plaintiff explained that tests performed at the school a few months before the woman learned of her pregnancy showed that it was laden with a carcinogen known as trichloroethylene (TCE). The carcinogen has previously been linked to birth defects. Even though the tests were conduct in a January, it wasn’t until July of that year when teachers were warned about the problem. As a result of the delay, the teacher in this case was not given the chance to consider the effect that the toxin may have on the development of her child. The couple’s attorney explained, “The whole tragic nature of the situation was made worse by the fact it could have been avoided if the Department of Education had acted properly.” Not only should the school have warned students and staff earlier, but the complaint also notes that they should have tested the school years before. Putting these educational spaces in industrial buildings comes with a variety of risks that must be accounted for.

This particular birth injury case is unique in that the family ever learned at all about the potential link between the toxin and the defect. Many families in similar situations are never made aware of the possibility that the negligence of those in a work environment might have contributed to the problem. The mother here only considered the possibility after conducting extensive research on her own to better understand why her child may have developed anecephaly. She soon discovered the link to the toxin and the presence of that toxin at her own school. A growing body of research suggests that TCE increase fetal problems.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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December 30, 2011

Levin & Perconti’s Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer John J. Perconti Interviewed About Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

Medical malpractice damage caps would have significant implications for all birth injury victims. That is why our Chicago birth injury lawyers work hard to fight these efforts at “tort reform” which would constitute an egregious takeaway of local victims’ legal rights. The Illinois Supreme Court has also already found that these caps represent an unconstitutional breach of the separation of powers. The ruling has not stopped proponents from continuing efforts to force tort reform measures through. Many are pushing federal legislation which would impose caps on all states—a breach of basic federalist principles.

Damage caps are so lucrative for big defendants companies and corporations that they are also trying to implement the caps in non-legislative ways. For example, recently published a story explaining two high-profile state cases regard nursing home arbitration clauses where damage bans were involved. Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer John J. Perconti was interviewed for the story.

The article was spurred by two recent Florida Supreme Court decisions which are being hailed as important wins for nursing home residents and their families. At the heart of both cases was the issue of whether arbitration clauses could include limits on damages. In Shotts v. OP Winter Haven, the family of a resident who died due to nursing home neglect sued to have a clause stricken in its arbitration agreement which placed an outright ban on the arbiter awarding punitive damages. The second case, Gessa v. Manor Care of Florida was similar in that the arbitration clause at issue banned punitive damages. But that contract also imposed a $250,000 cap on all non-economic damages. Both cases reached the state’ Supreme Court. Recently the court ruled that both clauses were unenforceable as violating the state’s public policy. The state has an interest in ensuring that its citizens do not have their basic legal rights signed away, particularly under the sensitive circumstances like the emotional process of moving a loved one to a nursing home.

These ruling are only binding in Florida state courts. However, the findings could act as a warning to all nursing homes nationwide which may have been thinking about trying to limit damages in this way. As Attorney Perconti explained for the article, “These opinions should deter nursing homes in other states from imposing damage caps in their agreements.” Illinois nursing homes had yet embraced these caps in arbitration clauses. Yet, had these Florida decisions gone the other way, it is not at all inconceivable to believe that facilities in our area might have taken it as a sign that they should also try to withhold redress to families that they victimize via use of these arbitration clauses. Some local homes may still try to do so. If they do, John Perconti explains that our courts would also be likely to find them unenforceable because “they would violate Illinois public policy and undermine the remedies set forth in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.” This important piece of state legislation seeks to protect local residents from Illinois nursing home abuse and allows victims certain avenues of redress. The bill cannot be thwarted by nursing home companies who force resident to sign away those rights at admission.

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December 29, 2011

Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed After Baby Left in Plastic Bin for Four Hours

A new birth injury lawsuit reported in the Tennessean makes damaging allegations against a team of medical professionals involved in the birth of a young boy. It is a unique set of claims that our Chicago birth injury lawyers have rarely seen before. The medical malpractice lawsuit was filed by the mother of the child who is now a toddler. The suit essential claims that the medical team left the boy for dead after his birth, only realizing hours later that the child was still alive.

Per claims in the lawsuit the young victim was born in mid-June of 2009, but the youngster had challenge from the beginning. The boy was born with an irregular heart rate and was born with abnormal gasping breaths. Upon his birth a nurse noted that the child “made a small cry at delivery and had movement of arms and legs.” In other words, the child’s condition was damaging, but there were clear signs that it was fighting for its life. However, the boy’s mother claims that the doctor who led the team which delivered the child decided unilaterally—without any guidance from others involved in the birthing process—that the child was not going to be able to survive. As a result of that decision, the medical team essentially stopped providing emergency care for the newborn.

The birth injury lawsuit claims that the medical team placed the baby in a plastic bin and left the body on the counter—waiting for the family to decide what they would like to do with the body. However, nearly four hours later a nurse who passed the area took a look at the child and noticed that the baby was still gasping for breath. The nurse took action, called in emergency personnel, and the child received resuscitation therapy. The child was transferred to a different hospital where his condition stabilized. He remained at the facility for three months while receiving specialized care. Amazingly the child survived and is now living with his family.

However, the four hour delay in receiving any medical care was not without consequence. The boy suffered a debilitating brain injury (among other problems) caused by, according to the complaint in the suit, the doctors failure to provide “timely and appropriate diagnosis, intervention, treatment, and care.” The medical malpractice attorney involved in the case noted that if normal procedures and reasonable care had been provided to the young child then a pediatrician should have been called in immediately to resuscitate the child and he should have been sent to the neonatal intensive care unit. None of those steps were taken, however.

If the allegations in this latest lawsuit are true, then this case represents an egregious lack of care provided by a medical professional, leading to significant consequences for the child victim. When it comes to saving the life of newborns and to preventing permanent and life-altering injuries, time is of the essence. Even minutes of delay in proper treatment can mean the difference between a normal life and one marred by brain injuries or physical disabilities. A delay of four hours would undoubtedly have severe consequences. Additionally, it remains shocking to learn that medical care providers would be unable to determine whether or not a child has the chance to survive or to at least performing all possible medical maneuvers to give the child the best chance possible.

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December 28, 2011

Woman Sues Sheriff for Treatment During Birth

Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at our firm works with families who have not received proper medical care when delivering their child, leading to injury to either the new baby or the mother. These cases are essentially a form a medical malpractice, where hospitals, doctors, and nurses have failed to act reasonably leading to the harm. However, in rare cases there are some birth injury lawsuits that are of a different mold. These situations essentially involve anything where a mother was not treated properly when giving birth to their child.

For example, the Colorado Independent reported this weekend on a unique birth injury lawsuit out of Arizona that has garnered national media attention. The case involves the alleged mistreatment of a pregnant inmate by a high-profile county sheriff. The sheriff has made national news for his efforts to curb illegal immigration in Arizona. Many hard line tactics have been used by his office in an alleged effort to crack down on undocumented individuals in his community. However, the efforts have come under intense scrutiny by many both in Arizona and around the country.

Now a woman is claiming that she was mistreated during her pregnancy while at the state’s immigration detention center. The plaintiff is an undocumented woman who was at the detention center for a short time during her pregnancy in 2009. The lawsuit names the sheriff, his office, the involved medical center, and various doctors and nurses who provided her care.

The trouble began when the woman was arrested for identify theft and held without bond. According to the police report in her arrest, the woman apparently used someone else’s name, social security number, and date of birth to obtain employment at a department store. She was actually at work vacuuming the floor when authorities arrested her.

At the time of her arrest the woman was six months pregnant. Her condition was somewhat complicated because she had developed gestational diabetes and had high blood pressure. She spent the next two months in the detention center. Just before Christmas, a few days before her sentencing hearing, the woman began to have contractions. She thought was going into labor. The detention center personnel responded by shackling her at the ankles and taking her to a local medical center. The medical team told her that she was not in labor, and so she was returned to the jail.

The woman began having intense pains as soon as she was brought back to the facility. The pain increased the following day, and she pleaded with guards for help. The woman only spoke Spanish, and the guards ignored her pleas. She eventually asked an English speaking person in the room to tell the guards that she needed help. Ultimately, she was shackled again and then taken to the same medical center where she gave birth. One correctional officer insisted that the woman be shackled to the hospital bed while giving birth—leading to increased pain during the labor.

The subsequent lawsuit that was filed alleges that the woman was mistreated during the process. It also claims that she was not properly cared for after the birth. The woman was allegedly discharged from the facility in a fragile state.

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December 27, 2011

$144 Million Birth Injury Verdict Handed Down & Talking Points Against Tort Reform

Some will see headlines like this one, involving a birth injury lawsuit that results in a $144 million verdict, as proof that the civil justice system is “out of control.” This latest case was reported in a range of publications last week after a Michigan trial ended with the significant sum for the family of a young girl who suffered a debilitating birth injury. Our Chicago injury lawyers have previously discussed the implications of large jury awards on the pubic psyche. It is important that these large awards are viewed in context and not be promoted in a way that presents a false picture of the entire civil justice system.

This particular case involved caregivers who negligently failed to perform a timely C-section. The victim’s mother was experiencing emergency conditions that should have made it clear to a prudent physician that emergency steps needed to be taken. However, instead of immediately performing the surgical birth, the doctor had the mother perform a vaginal birth. As a result, the child suffered a broken clavicle, began hemorrhaging, and suffered severe brain trauma. She will need around-the-clock care for the rest of her life.

Our Illinois injury attorneys urge advocates to remember a few basic points when confronted with arguments from those seeking to use these cases to advocate for tort reform. There are many other issues to raise, but consider reminding the tort reformer that…

1. Few jury awards are ever this large. While these eye-popping figures are the ones that almost always make headlines, they are far from the norm. They are outliers in every sense of the word.

2. Many injury lawsuits result in no money at all being awarded to victims. Statistics still show that many who file lawsuits ultimately do not receive a settlement or jury award. Even then, there is a self-selection process to the filing of lawsuits. Cases that are without merit or where recovery is not appropriate are usually not taken on by injury lawyers in the first place. The costs of even filing a suit are too high for frivolous claims to be pursued.

3. Damage totals are not concocted out of thin air. They are based on calculated arguments presented by all sides in the cases based on real figures and past precedents.

4. Damage decisions are reached by juries, which include a range of impartial community members who reach decision. It is the process deemed the most fair since before the founding of the country. Placing decisions in the hands of others is akin to usurping the role of the jury that has been foundational in our system since the beginning.

Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm believes that it remains important to provide a balanced perspective to all discussions about the civil justice system. As this particular birth injury case demonstrates, there are certain circumstances where a jury deems is important for a particularly large award to be given. This was based on evidence and argument in this particularly case only. However, it is incredibly important for these individual awards not be held up as “proof” of some problem of overreach within the system.

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December 26, 2011

Cerebral Palsy Victim Starts Computer Company

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers are used to fending off criticisms that the settlements and jury verdicts in many of these lawsuits are excessive. For one thing, many of the critics are mistaken about the average settlement or verdict amount. Their opinions are skewed by news article headlines which selectively highlight only those cases where the plaintiff wins and the award is high. Many birth injury lawsuits result in absolutely no money being paid to victims, and the average settlements are far lower than the most ardent critics often suggest.

There is another line of criticism that argues that while harm caused to infants because of preventable medical malpractice at birth are tragic, there is little to be gained by awarding the victim large sums of money. These critics seem to concede that these cases have merit, but they argue that demanding accountability and providing victims with redress has little benefit.

We strongly disagree.

The truth is that while victims of birth injuries will face many unique challenges in their lives as a result of the injury, if they are given enough resources to reach their full potential, their accomplishments can be just as impressive as children who did not face similar challenges. Take the case of one thirty-three year old cerebral palsy victim who did not let his disability get him down. He is now the owner of a successful computer care business. The company has been in operation for the last seven years and has build up an impressive client base of over 200 individuals and businesses. As a story in the Middlebury Patch explained, the man was born three months prematurely and has been in a wheelchair his entire life. His disability makes it difficult for him to write. As a result he began using sophisticated computer systems to help from the age of five. By age six he had already written his first computer program. Throughout his entire life he has always been involved in the cutting edge of computers.

The man is able to drive, and has a wheelchair accessible van that helps him get to his clients. His parents have also been able to modify their home to make it completely wheelchair accessible. This includes changes to many basic layouts that make it easy to reach countertops, appliances, and the like. However, he admits that there remain some challenges. He explains that he has lost a few jobs because he was unable to access the computers in his chair. He noted that the problem was most pronounced in older buildings or places where he was not able to access the chair lift on his van.

This remarkable man is the perfect testament to what individuals who suffer from these disabilities can accomplish so long as they have the determination and access to the resources they need to maximize their potential. Unfortunately, many fellow victims of cerebral palsy will never have the same chance at success as this man, because they face day-to-day struggles to gain access to the resources they need. Many families struggle to provide even the basic life necessities for their children with disabilities, let alone provide the extra materials that could help them learn as much as possible. When the birth injury itself is caused by the negligence of another it is perfectly reasonable and appropriate for the negligent party to ensure that victim has access to the resources they need to reach their full potential.

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December 25, 2011

Economist Summarizes Harm of Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

A birth injury lawsuit is essentially a subset of medical malpractice lawsuits. In the majority of cases where another party is found liable for causing or contributing to the birth injury that party is a medical professional who did not provide a reasonable standard of care. Therefore when tort reform advocates argue for changes to the medical malpractice system, birth injury victim advocates should stand strong in opposition. It is important for advocates to be well versed in the debate to have logical points to rebut those who seek to mislead others about the need for changes to the tort system.

One good starting point is a comprehensive primer published by an author at the Cato Institute. An economist professor published the policy analysis asking the question, “Could Mandatory Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages Harm Consumers?” The author explains that a key argument of many tort reformers is that capping awards will lead to reduced medical costs. While this arguments works well in political debates, it is much more questionable when examined closely. Beyond that questionable claim, tort reformer also fail to take into account the effects that caps would have on the victims of medical malpractice. They also do not consider the effects of the lost incentives that lawsuits have to ensure high quality care.

The Cato Institute paper looks at all available data and finds that malpractice awards actually do track the extent of damages. In other words, in general the amount of damages awarded is usually reflected by the extent of injuries that the malpractice caused the victims. Settlement amounts and jury awards are not arbitrary numbers without connection to harm, as some critics maintain.

In addition, the study author provides evidence that these lawsuits play an important role in overall patient safety. This is the case primarily in ways that insurance companies use tools to reduce patient injury depending on the perceived risk of medical providers. In addition, insurance industry physician rating systems ensure that errant doctors are limited in the harm they can cause those in their care. Liability insurers work in a variety of ways to provide incentives to doctors who make the fewest errors. This includes providing information of risk management efforts and closely monitoring practitioners that are providing new services where risk is uncertain. For the most consistently dangerous practitioners, insurance carriers may even cut off coverage completely. This essentially limits the doctor’s affiliation with most health organization, limiting overall patient risk exposure. Medical malpractice damage caps that essentially shield insurance companies and doctors from liability would render all of these incentives moot. They are likely to fall by the wayside, making patients less safe in the process.

Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm is proud to stand with victims of medical negligence. It remains unnecessary, unfair, and dangerous for policy to be changed which takes away rights from those who hold their wrongdoers accountable for errors. The justice system, with the jury at the center, has forever been a source of national strength and that system should not be tampered with.

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December 24, 2011

Birth Injury Victim Seeking Legislative Approval For Full Jury Award

When the nation’s Founding Fathers crafted our current governmental structure when drafting the Constitution, they took great care to create various branches of power, each with specific tasks. Of course, everyone learns in middle school that there are three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Each is intended to balance against the others, to create an overall system of government that is effective, fair, and efficient.

The judicial branch is intended to be a co-equal body, the place where the laws are interpreted and applied. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers are proud to be a part of that legal tradition, representing local residents who have been hurt as they navigate this justice system. Through the years, however, the judiciary has been attacked, with some calling for legislative efforts to weaken the institutions that dispense justice. There are many different policy proposals, but at the heart of virtually all of them is a desire to remove from the judiciary the ability to make certain decisions when it comes to disputes between community members or interpretations of the actions of a legislature. Many of these efforts are blatantly unconstitutional. Others clearly go against the spirit of split bodies of government that has long been a cherished part of our national history. All of these efforts are unnecessary and harmful.

A story in the Denver Post demonstrates the folly of taking away the dispensation of justice from the body best suited for it: the judiciary. The story shares the tale of a 14-year old boy who wrote a letter to state house officials essentially pleading with them to allow him to actually receive the jury award that he was given nearly five years ago. The teen boy had severe brain damage inflicted as a result of a preventable birth injury. A few years after the injury, as his mother learned more about the circumstances surrounding the situation, a birth injury lawsuit was filed on his behalf. The lawsuit argued that the professionals involved in delivering him made crucial errors which led to his brain damage. The jury awarded the boy and his family roughly $30 million, a total it reached after carefully considering the total cost of the harm to the boy over the course of a lifetime as a result of the medical malpractice. The funds would allow the child to have the care he needed to maximize his quality of life.

Unfortunately, five years later and the child still has not received a dime. The law in the state requires that all jury awards involving a state entity be approved by the state legislature before funds are actually dispersed. The hospital that committed the error in the boy’s case was run by the state, and so it qualifies as a state entity. Therefore the child has been unable to access the resources he desperately needs to receive better care. The state’s senate has approved the measure, but leaders of the house have thus far refused to even call the claims bill for a vote. There is nothing for the victim to do except wait and try to convince those involved to do the right thing.

It remains disappointing that victims such as the teen in this case are forced to wade through the political process just to receive the fair compensation that a jury awarded him. It is yet another testament to the need to keep the judicial system free of the murky influence of political whims.

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December 23, 2011

New Technique May Save Lives of Infants with Diaphragm Birth Defect

Medical News Today shared interesting information this week on a new in-utero procedure that has been found to improve the survival rates for infants with a unique diaphragm birth defect. The injury in question, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, is a birth defect caused essentially by the development of a hole in the infant’s diaphragm. This hole leads to a pulmonary hypoplasia, which is an incomplete development of the lungs. Frequent blog readers will be aware that improper lung development leads to a wide range of problems for children. For example, if lungs are not fully developed at birth, the child’s brain may not receive enough oxygen, causing permanent brain damage. Of course, in many cases the permanent malformation of the lungs proves fatal and the child does not survive.

However, a new study published in the Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology journal suggests that a procedure may be used to improve survival rates in these situations, particularly in the most severe cases of congenial diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). The study in question comes from Brazil, where researchers carried out randomized trials on forty one patients. All of the patients were women whose fetuses had developed CDH. The group was split in two, with one receiving the procedure, known as fetal tracheal occlusion (FETO), and the other receiving no intervention. The group receiving the treatment had it performed at some point between weeks 26 and 30 of their pregnancy.

Overall those in the research group gave birth on average a week earlier than the control group. Researchers found that of the group that had received the procedure, half of the infants survived (10 out of 20). On the other hand, only one of the twenty one children in control group survived. Therefore, researchers roughly concluded that while no treatment leads to a five percent chance of survival for these infants, providing the FETO treatment raises survival rates to about fifty percent. Experts believe that the procedure works by enhancing pulmonary growth. They suggested that this information is sufficient to lead professionals to consider FETO treatment to be standard care for the most severe forms of CDH.

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers know that these developments may have implications for the quality of care that patients should expect when it comes to treatment for CDH. Of course, it is not at all correct for patients to now assume that if their infant does not survive because of the condition than it is due to improper medical care. On the contrary, even with the FETO treatment, survival from the birth injury is only at fifty percent. Instead, determining whether or not a birth injury lawsuit should be filed following these infant deaths depends on a broader assessment of the general level of care that was provided by a medical team. Looking only at outcomes is not relevant to the base measure of whether negligence actually occurred. The unsatisfactory outcome generally only relates the damages assessment of any medical malpractice case. But damages are insufficient without a breach of care being proven.

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December 22, 2011

More Evidence Connects Rare Birth Defect to Mother’s Painkiller Use

Much news has been made recently about the link between parental painkiller use and preventable birth defects. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers wrote about this very topic last month. We explained how the problem should be viewed in two different ways. On one hand, there is growing alarm about the amount of children who are born to mothers that are addicted to painkillers. Many children develop opiate addictions while in the womb, because of their mother’s intentional consumption of painkillers during the pregnancy. This is a worrisome social problem, that many maternity ward nurses are working hard to combat. However, there is a second problem that is not related to mothers who are intentionally addicted to the painkillers. Instead, research is showing that even slight exposure to certain drugs among women in the earliest part of their pregnancies leads to increased risks of certain birth injuries.

The second problem is particularly troubling because many women (and doctors) had no idea that taking even common painkillers may present risks. If more research continues to pour in on the issue, it may be vital for medical professionals to change their practices to prevent these injuries from occurring.

The latest research on the topic was discussed last week by Fox News Health. It was explained how certain rare birth defects were seen more often depending on whether or not mothers took certain over-the-counter medications during the early stage of their pregnancy. The painkillers involved included common pills like aspirin, Aleve, and Advil. Babies born to mothers that had taken aspirin or Aleve where several times more likely to be born with eye problems like abnormally small eyes or no eyes at all. Amniotic band syndrome—a condition that causes malformations like clubfoot—were at least three times more likely among those who had taken painkillers. While these increases are troubling, experts admit that it is still too early to say with certainty that the increased birth injury risks are directly caused by the painkiller use.

Part of the reason why more research is needed is that the actual occurrence of many of these defects is so rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that the eye problems (anophthalmia and microphthalmia) occur in only one out of 5,300 births. Amniotic band syndrome is even rarer, seen in only one out of every 10,000 births.

These painkiller finding were published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Researchers involved in the study reached their conclusions based on data culled and analyzed from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. As part of the study women were asked of their over-the-counter drug use during various parts of their pregnancy. The answers among 20,000 women were compared, some with birth defects and some without. Nearly thirty different defects were analyzed. In the vast majority of those defects, there seemed to be no connection to the use of these painkillers. However, the few rare defects mentioned above did show some connection to the mother’s drug use. Others that also seem connected to painkiller use was that for cleft palate and spina bifida).

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December 21, 2011

Child Deaths Decrease Overall, But Birth Injuries Remain The Leading Cause

The Salisbury Post wrote last week on a new task force report which found that child death rates continued to decline last year, reaching the lowest level on record. Of course this is encouraging news that signals important advances in a wide range of child safety efforts. However, there is clearly still more work to be done, because children still die (and are severely hurt) in a wide range of ways from birth injuries to car crashes and home accidents.

According to the story gathered by the state’s Center for Health Statistics and the Child Fatality Prevention Team Research Staff, the current death rates of children from birth through 17 years old is 58 per 100,000. A year ago that number was 67 per 100,000 children. The decline was found in a range of individual areas from increased car safety measures, decreased suicide, and lower infant mortality rates. The significance of the achievement should not be underestimated, as hundreds of thousands of more children are alive today than would otherwise be the case if rates had not declined over the last several decades. Experts point to a range of public policy changes and strategic investments which prioritized child safety. Those changes include ensuring better automobile safety and preserving the accountability incentives of a birth injury lawsuit to ensure proper medical care is maximized in the crucial moments following an infant’s birth.

Of particular important to our Chicago birth injury lawyers, the latest data reported a large decline in the infant mortality rates. The drop off was seen almost exclusively in the African American community. However, almost half of all child deaths are still caused by birth defects and other birth-related conditions. These include defects that arise early on in a child’s development and that are beyond our current medical knowledge to prevent or cure. However, an unknown total of those deaths are attributable to problems during the birth itself that could have been prevented. Most often, these preventable birth injury deaths are caused by unexpected complications that occur during the birth with medical professionals failing to respond appropriately. Differentiating between birth injury deaths that could have been prevented if proper care were provided versus those that were completely accidental is sometimes difficult. The civil justice system is intended as the ideal system by which those differences can be debated and a resolution reached. In other words, the American justice system puts its faith in the trial by jury approach to these affairs, where truth comes out when both sides are allowed to present evidence openly and fairly in a structured format with impartial jurors reaching an ultimate consensus.

Outside of birth injury deaths, the most common cause of accidental death was in car accidents. Even in car accidents, children under the age of one constituted the single largest group. Nearly two thirds of all child car accident deaths were among that group. Suicides declined considerably from an abnormally high level in 2009. Other types of deaths seemed to remain constant. A few expected trends existed, such as the fact that urban children were more likely to die in fires, while rural children more often fell victim to accidental drowning.

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December 20, 2011

Insurance Rate Hikes Looming in 2012—Manufactured Crisis to Push for More Tort Reform

The Chicago birth injury lawyers at our firm are staunch opponents of tort reform measures, because we know the effect that it might have on many birth injury lawsuits. Most tort reform, measures target medical malpractice, and any experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney can explain how mistakes made during childbirth are some of the costliest forms of medical negligence. Any changes to the justice system that limit the ability of these victims to receive the full value of their loss will have catastrophic effects. Victims lives will be made even worse and more mistakes will ultimately be made as an important incentives to maximize patient safety are removed.

Unfortunately, despite the clear danger, tort reform measures continued being proposed. Insurance companies are often at the heart of pushing these proposals, as they clearly have much to gain by not having to pay when their insured make mistakes. Public opinion is swayed by claims from insurance insiders that rising premiums are caused by lawsuits. Yet, as a new report from the Center for Justice and Democracy argued, the so-called “crisis” reported by the insurance companies are actually fabrications. In fact, the report argues that in 2012 insurance companies are set to invent yet another “crisis” in order to increase premiums, decrease services, and ultimately pad the industry profits.

The latest report, entitled “Repeat Offenders: How the Insurance Industry Manufactures Crises and Harms America,” outlines in persuasive detail how insurance companies are working to shift from a “soft” market to a “hard” one. A soft market—which we have been in since 2006—is one where companies actually compete to win customers and premiums remain stable. In contrast a “hard” market favors the insurance company, allowing them to increase premiums and decrease services. The companies are allowed to make the change if they can convince others that they are collectively having money problems. Therefore, depending on how they game their books, the industry can try to convince regulators that prices need to be collectively raised on individuals and businesses.

The claimed money crisis does not conform to reality. For one thing, the companies are doing just fine financially. According to Best’s Aggregates and Averages the industry had a surplus of $580 million last year—not counting the reserves it set aside to pay actual claims. Yet, regardless of this, the industry is gearing up to claim that a crisis is in place and premium increases are necessary to ensure the industry stays afloat. The industry is using the costs of Hurricane Irene as cover to make the claims. Of course, in realty the industry had plenty of reserves to cover the hurricane costs. Even then, the initial costs estimates were much higher than expected. While first estimates came in at $14 billion, the final total dropped to $2.8 billion when it was more accurately assessed. However, that didn’t stop the industry from forcing through a premium rate jump in November of this year, the first jump since 2005. All those involved in the legal system, from birth injury lawyers and injury victims to patient safety advocates should stand against these deceptive and self-serving insurance company maneuvers.

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December 19, 2011

Hot Coffee Documentary Includes Story of Birth Injury Struggle

Earlier this year our Chicago birth injury lawyers called on readers to take the time to watch the documentary “Hot Coffee.” The film was created by a personal injury lawyer who stopped practicing in order to create the documentary setting the record straight on many misguided beliefs about the civil justice system. The film was aired on HBO earlier this year, and has had a few repeated showings since. In addition, it is now available in a wide variety of other settings for those who have not yet had a chance to view it. This week a contributing article in the Digital Journal made another call urging everyone to take the time to watch the film. Of course those who currently believe that tort reform efforts are necessary may have their mind changed by the arguments laid out. But it is important for patient rights advocates to check out the film as well. It will help arm advocates with new information that may be helpful to share when having discussions about these topics with friends and family members.

The new article explains how the central story in the film is that of the well known McDonalds lawsuit where an elderly woman sued the company after suffering severe burns when coffee as hot as a car radiator spilled onto the lap. Her injuries were so severe that she ultimately required several skin grafts. Her life was never the same after the injury. The company was well aware of the risks posed by their hotter-than-normal coffee temperature, as hundreds of other patrons had also been injured. However, the company had not taken even simple steps to make the product safer. Eventually, the woman’s lawsuit resulted in punitive damages being awarded for the company’s failure to take reasonable steps in the face of a known risk. While the media portrayed the lawsuit as an example of something frivolous, the award amount was only in place to force the company to act reasonably.

Hot Coffee also shares other injury lawsuit stories, including one family that filed a birth injury lawsuit after one of their twins was injured as a result of their doctor’s negligence during the birth. The movie explains how the family hired a birth injury lawyer who took the case to trial. After the impartial jury heard all of the evidence in the case, they decided that the doctor was clearly negligent. They then heard even more evidence from both sides on the total award that the injury would cost the family over the life of the child. The jury awarded what they thought was a fair amount. However, unknown to the jury, a damage cap law in the state, reduced the award considerably. As a result the family has no idea how they will find the money to pay for the boy’s needed care. At the end of the day, it will likely be the taxpayers who are forced to provide the necessary care. This remains a hidden reality about damage caps. At the end of the day, the caps do not make it any less expensive for families to recover from the harm caused by the negligent party. The only thing that the caps do is make life tougher for the victims and shift costs away from the party who actually caused harm and onto the taxpayers.

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December 18, 2011

Resources for Choosing a Holiday Toy for a Child with Cerebral Palsy

As blog readers know, cerebral palsy (CP) describes a range of conditions that affect one’s bodily movements, balance, and posture. In many cases, cerebral palsy is not readily apparent to doctors or parents at a child’s birth. Instead, it is often only identified as a child develops. It can be caused by a range of issues, usually from oxygen deprivation to the brain. This oxygen deprivation might be spurred by improper lung development in premature babies, umbilical cord prolapse when babies are born in breech position, and other instances. Birth injury lawsuits filed after a child develops cerebral palsy usually allege that the involved doctors were improperly prepared to handle these conditions, allowing the birth injury to occur that could have been prevented. The consequences to the child of cerebral palsy vary considerably, from completely debilitating to mild. Beyond problem with movement, victims also may have trouble with hearing, vision, and speech.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, roughly one in three hundred children suffer from cerebral palsy. Therefore, many local families have children and relatives who are dealing with these issues. During the holiday season, many families or loved ones may be unsure what the best gift might be for a child with cerebral palsy. According to a recent Seed News story, those buying for children with cerebral palsy are often challenged to buy gifts that are both fun and also aid in the child’s development.

One website that caters to these exact holiday questions is “Cerebral Palsy Toys and Play Aids.” The online resource provides detailed information about how play time for all children (including those with CP) is much different from adult recreation. Child play time is not just for escapism, but it is actually an important time when they think and learn. Their toys should keep this in mind. For example, the website explains how for youngest children with CP, more sensory stimulation is usually advantageous. These may include objects that combine motions and music and lights. In addition, it is important to pay attention to the fine motor skills of the child to understand if a certain play aid will be appropriate—though even if the object might be a challenge it could be a good challenge that actually helps the child develop those motor skills.

Another great resource is Astra Toy—the American Specialty Toy Retail Association. The group explains that they are committed to helping all those involved in the toy making process to develop products that are of high quality on both learning and playing fronts. Astra reminds readers that far too often children with certain disabilities are disappointed when relatives buy “safe” gifts, like clothes, instead of fun objects that they’d actually like to play with. Instead, the experts recommend families take a look at the website Able Play, for a comprehensive look at toys that might fit children with certain disabilities.

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers hope all families who have loved ones with CP find the perfect gifts for their friends and family members this season. We know that living with CP presents many unique challenges. However, time and again we have been impressed by the ways that families adapt to those challenges, from guaranteeing that their children receive the best therapy possible to ensuring that just the right holiday gift is found.

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December 17, 2011

$900,000 Medical Malpractice Award Upheld Following Brain Damage After Birth

We have recently posted a series of stories on a mother who died after a C-section for twins. The birth injury was caused by excessive bleeding following the surgery that could not be stopped by medical professionals in a timely fashion. The tragedy was a reminder of both the risks of all surgical births and the fact that mothers are often just as susceptible as their children of suffering harm when childbirths go awry.

Hampton Roads News posted a story this weekend that acts as yet another reminder of the risks to mothers in these situations. The story shared information about a verdict in a birth injury lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman who suffered severe brain damage after having a C-section. The accident occurred in early 2005 when the woman was admitted to the hospital. As in the case of the woman who died after her twins were born, high blood pressure was also an issue in this case. The woman here actually had a history of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. Because of that prior history of problems, the nurses charged with her care were ordered to provide close monitoring of the blood pressure, particularly after the delivery.

Unfortunately the woman experienced a wide range of problems after the surgery. Her blood pressure and heart rate become erratic. Her partner was by her bedside at the time, and he immediately called for help when he noticed that she was having problems. He explained that nurses were very slow in responding. When they finally did respond the nurse failed to notice that she had erratic monitor readings. No emergency steps were taken, and the nurse left.

Less than two hours later an alarm sounded on the victim’s monitor. Her blood pressure had plummeted to critical levels, causing her to fall into shock. Less than an hour after that alarm the woman was rushed into surgery. By that time she had lost roughly half of her blood. The blood loss led to a severe and permanent brain injury. During the childbirth injury lawsuit that followed the family argued that hospital records clearly identified that the woman’s nurses did not check her surgical incisions for over six hours. That is how she was able to lose so much blood without notice. By the time she was lifted out of the bed to head to the emergency surgery her sheets were soaked in blood. The trial actually occurred in 2009, where a U.S. District Court judge awarded the woman $900,000. However, the verdict was appealed and it wasn’t until very recently that the original verdict was upheld.

It seems that the doctor involved in this botched delivery had done the same thing in the past. The doctor had a previous series of malpractice claims filed against him over a six year period. The state’s Board of Medicine explained that the man eventually had to surrender his license for his previous errors. The case is yet another reminder that at times, instances of malpractice seems to bunch up with certain doctors making the same errors again and again.

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December 16, 2011

Psychological Factors At Play in Injury Lawsuit Damage Caps

The famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman has garnered much praise this year for his book entitled “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” The text is essentially a summary of the man’s lifetime of work and is an ideal primer on the current state of human knowledge as it relates to human thinking and decision making. Kahneman earned his place among psychology’s giants first and foremost for his work on discovering and defining “heuristics”—systematic errors that all humans make when reaching decisions. In fact, it was his work on heuristics with Amos Tversky that led to his winning the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Mr. Kahneman’s work has implications in a wide range of areas, including in personal injury lawsuits (of which all birth injury cases fall). In Thinking, Kahneman discussed a concept known as “anchoring.” Anchoring is a heuristic whereby individuals are prone to be influenced by suggestions, ideas, or figures they are exposed to immediately before making a decision. That influence exists in a wide range of contexts, even when the individuals are specifically told that the exposure might influence their thinking. In this way, it is one of the most reliable and robust principles measure in experimental psychology.

Usually anchoring influence occurs when individuals need to quantify something—such as the value of damages in a birth injury lawsuit. When forced to estimate a value, an anchoring value will be influential. For example, in the most common anchoring experiment a research participant will be asked two questions in a very specific order. Those two questions might be something like this:

1. What Mahatma Gandhi older or younger than 90 years old when he died?
2. How old would you guess Mahatma Gandhi was when he died?

In an experiment, half of participant would be asked the two questions above. The other half would have 45 years old substituted for 90years old in the first questions. The findings indicate that there is significant difference between the individual estimates in question two depending on the form of question one. In other words, the “anchor” of question one influences the guess. This influence was found even when the “anchor” was clearly incorrect. Even when the first question asked if Gandhi was older or younger than 190 years old (an obvious question), respondents were influenced in answering the second question. Specifically, the higher the age in the first question, the higher the average guess in the second.

In the personal injury lawsuit context, Kahneman suggests that this anchoring heuristic may have implications on the effect of damage award caps. He suggests in Thinking that the cap amount (perhaps $1 million) will act as an anchor when jurors are asked to specifically quantify damages that need to be awarded. Interestingly, he suggests that this may unfairly inflate juror awards in many contexts. While large judgments will be limited inherently by the law, the anchoring effect of the cap will raise what otherwise would be lower verdicts—closer to the “anchor” of $1 million. In this way, Kahneman believes that it is only the largest defendants or those who are serial defendants that stand to gain from medical malpractice caps. Many other defendants may actually be hurt by the arbitrary imposition of an award cap.

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December 15, 2011

Mother’s C-Section Death Highlights Risks of Surgical Births

This weekend we published a story on the tragic death of a mother who passed aware after having a C-section birth with twins. A father remained heartbroken as he shared the story of watching his wife slip away mere hours after giving birth shortly after Thanksgiving. We explained how the story highlighted the fact that while “birth injuries” usually refer to problems that arise in a young child during delivery, they just as well can apply to serious injuries experienced by the mother during these traumatic births. There is no way around that fact that there are inherent risks in all childbirths, and those risks are magnified when the medical providers involved fail to act appropriately in any given situation.

A Fox News report this weekend on the same story took a different angle, and used the tragedy to remind readers that C-Section births present even more inherent risks than natural childbirths. The ubiquity of these surgical deliveries gives many a false sense of security—in some areas upwards of 40% of all babies are delivered surgically. However, the possibility of C-section complications are very real; lives are literally on the line every time one of these procedure is performed. It is important that all families (and medical professionals) keep those risks in mind as they make decisions about whether or not C-section births are appropriate in their situation.

As the husband involved in the latest tragedy explained, his wife showed zero signs of distress leading up to the procedure. The only seeming irregularity was that the surgery was moved up one day, because doctors found that the woman’s blood pressure was elevated in a pre-op appointment. The birth itself actually went fine, but the woman began to hemorrhage after the surgery. She did not survive the childbirth injury.

As the Fox News story explained, when hearing about that event many readers admitted disbelief that mothers are exposed to such risks when giving birth in this day and age. Considering that medical improvements have advanced to the point where the vast majority of birth complications are resolved, it is not surprising that community members underestimate the continuing childbirth risks. This is particularly true of surgical births.

Just like any other surgery—there are significant risks involved. Opening up the human body and performing any action, let alone the extraction of a new baby, is a complex procedure that places significant stress on the body. Every time a surgery is performed, that stress may result in any number of problems or surgical errors. Depending on the severity of the problem and the skill with which the medical providers respond to the problem, there can be significant consequences for the patient.

In the context of C-section births, doctors explain that bleeding is far and away the most common cause of death for the mother. Following the procedure the bleeding can be fast and severe. At times the speed of the bleeding is so significant that there is nothing medical professionals can do to save the patient. In addition, C-sections can also lead to bladder complications, bowel injuries, and infections. Blood clots are also possible which themselves can cause pulmonary embolisms—the blockage of a main lung artery.

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December 14, 2011

New “WalkAide” Device May Help Some Cerebral Palsy Victims Walk

Fox News 19 profiled a seven-year old birth injury victim who suffers from cerebral palsy. As with all victims of cerebral palsy, the youngster has faced a variety of challenges throughout his life including both mental and physical difficulties. As our Chicago birth injury lawyers have often discussed on this blog, one of the particularly difficult challenges faced by suffers of cerebral palsy are movement problems. Many are confined to wheelchairs, as they are unable to walk on their own. These problems often require close, around the clock for their entire lives. This is one of the reasons that birth injury lawsuits filed where cerebral palsy developed due in whole or part by medical negligence often results in significant settlements and jury awards.

Fortunately, researchers are working each day to develop products that make the lives of these victims a little easier. For example, the boy profiled in this news story is using a small device on his shin to help him walk. The medical tool is roughly the size of an iPod, but it packs an impressive punch, working to help the child walk while re-teaching his brain some basic skills. The child suffers from a cerebral palsy condition known as “foot drop” which is a form of partial lower leg paralysis. The lower leg problems have led the boy to be particularly weak on his right side and he has a noticeably unnatural gait.

Yet this new device helps alleviate the problem. The device, known as a WalkAide, is worn around the child’s calf, over the shin and just below the knee. It works by sending mild electrical currents into the wearer’ leg muscles, helping to restore mobility to the area. The physical stimulation works to allow the lower leg to behave as it might had he not suffered from the cerebral palsy. In addition, the device actually works to re-wire the young child’s brain. After wearing the device for a certain period of time and then turning it off, the boy is able to take more “normal” steps than before. The child’s parents explain that he could take 300 normal steps without the aid of the device, something that he could never do before the stimulations using the WalkAide. The child’s parents admit that they are thrilled with the progress. They especially appreciate the fact that the device is so easy to use.

The technology used in the device has apparently been available to adult sufferers for some time. However, it was only this year that the device was allowed to be worn by children. The boy in this case developed his physical problems as a result of a stroke that he suffered while in his mother’s womb. Doctors believe that the stroke led to a more temperate form of cerebral palsy. Right now the device is only capable of helping certain cerebral palsy victims—usually those with more mild symptoms. As our birth injury lawyers have explained, cerebral palsy is actually a catch-all term that applies to a range of mental and physical problems.

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December 13, 2011

Shoulder Dystocia Birth Injury Lawsuit Results in $1.8 Million Verdict for Plaintiff

Omaha News reported late last month on the conclusion of a birth injury lawsuit where a jury found for the family of a girl who lost the use her arm following medical errors during her birth. As with virtually all of these cases, the family is grateful for the redress, but they would obviously return it all for their child not to have suffered the life-changing harm in the first place. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers know that while the award total might seem large at first glance, it results from the fact that young girl will likely need costly and significant medical and caregiving aid for the rest of her life.

The girl in this case suffered the permanent injury during her turbulent birth in the summer of 2008. The girl was large for an infant, weighing in at more than 9 pounds when she was delivered. Unfortunately, it seems that her obstetrician failed to properly account for her large size or deal effectively with the traumatic delivery. According to attorneys for the family that filed the birth injury lawsuit, the doctor made a series of critical mistakes during the delivery.

A vacuum was used to help the child navigate the birth canal. However, there were serious questions raised about whether or not the vacuum was necessary. As a result of that step, the child’s shoulder became caught on the side of her mother’s pelvis. This is a common problem when mistakes are made by medical professionals during a birth. In an effort to fix the problem the doctor applied too much force in pulling down on the baby’s head. The pressure ultimately caused the newborn to experience significant nerve damage to one arm. Three nerves were ripped completely out and two others were ruptured in half. The damage left the arm virtually paralyzed. She has already had several surgeries, and many more are expected. Her parents explain that the three and half year old is just now beginning to look at other kids at her daycare and wonder why she is different.

The birth injury lawyers who represented the victim explained that pulling down on the head during a delivery is a clear mistake—one that all medical professionals know should never be done. However, it seems that the doctor in this case panicked during the troubling birth and made the severe mistake. The specific name for the harm caused in shoulder dystocia. Our office has handled many cases where local victims suffered this injury as a result of excess force being applied during a birth.

As the lawyers in this case explained, shoulder dystocia can be prevented or safely handled without application of excessive force. Doctors can usually either manipulate the mother’s legs or exert pressure on the pelvis area itself. However, there are times when doctors rush and apply the extra force. That application of force is only ever necessary when the child’s oxygen levels begin to drop. But when those levels do not drop, the force is simply exerted in error—often with serious, preventable consequences.

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December 12, 2011

Steroid Use May Boost Survival Rates For Premature Infants

A new report from the National Institute of Health and discussed last week in PharmPro provides encouraging news for all those hoping to prevent premature child birth injuries. Of course, children who are delivered before the full term gestation period can have myriad problems that they otherwise wouldn’t. Considering that many children are born prematurely every year, medical researchers have been working to limit injuries and improve survival rates among this group for decades. Over the years staggering progress has been made. The good news continues to come in.

For example, according to the PharmPro story, prenatal steroids seem to improve the survival rates and chance of suffering an infant brain injury among those born as early as the twenty third week of pregnancy. A full pregnancy is usually considered to be forty weeks long. As medical knowledge has increased, the viability of those children born weeks (or months) before that normal time has increased. That viability period may continue to grow.

Per the new research from the National Institute of Health Network, prenatal steroids may be given to mothers at risk for premature birth earlier than they are currently given. Under current guidelines these drugs are given to those at risk of premature birth between the 24th and 34th week of their pregnancies. Yet, the latest study suggests benefit can be seen as early as the 23rd week of pregnancy. The study which reached this conclusion appeared in this month’s Journal of the American Medical Association and was led by the director of the Neonatology division at the University of Alabama.

The steroids benefit the infant by helping the fetus’s lungs more fully mature. Naturally those children born early have not had the time to properly develop. The failure to develop vital organs often leads to significant long-term birth injuries—that is if the child survives at all. Lung trouble is particularly common among premature infants as is brain underdevelopment. However, increased steroid use among mothers who may deliver premature infants may ultimately save more of these children, particularly those who are the most fragile (born between the 22nd and 25th week of pregnancy).

Before this study, there was little guidance on prenatal steroid benefits in infants born before the 24th week. The study was completed to fill the knowledge void. It involved examination of nearly 11,000 infants born preterm over the last 17 years. In additional neurological examinations were conducted of nearly 5,000 of those infants. The results found a robust impact from prenatal steroids. Specifically, there were 33% fewer deaths among those who received the hormones compared with those who did not. Additionally, blindness, deafness, and other injuries or disabilities were 20% lower in those surviving infants who received the steroids.

Experts report that premature infants born in this 22-25 week zone often die shortly after birth, despite all efforts possible being exerted to save them. Many others experience disabilities that last throughout their lives, anything from hearing loss and cerebral palsy to mental deficiencies. A few are able to survive into adulthood unaffected, and it is hoped that research like this will help more of these children reach maturity without complications. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers are encouraged by the results and hope that their findings are verified and implemented into practice is as efficient and safe manner as possible.

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December 11, 2011

Husband Mourns Loss of Wife Who Died After Giving Birth to Twins

Most of our discussion on this blog centers on birth injuries affecting the new child and information about new research into ways to prevent harm to children during their delivery or throughout a pregnancy. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers know very well that preventable injuries to young children have a lifetime of consequences not only for the injured children but for their entire family. Most of our work involves helping families receive compensation such that they do not have to worry about finding the resources to ensure their children’s quality of life is maximized.

However, at the end of the day it is important not to forget that there are actually two individuals whose physical health is on the line during a delivery: the new child and the mother. Harm caused to mothers during pregnancy are sometimes not discussed enough, and it is important not to forget that many families continue to be devastated after losing mothers when deliveries go bad.

The NY Daily News shared one heartbreaking story this week about a mother who died two weeks ago shortly after delivering twins. The woman had long wanted children, but getting pregnant always eluded her and her husband. Finally, after seven years of trying, the 44-year old woman was ecstatic to learn that she had finally become pregnant—and with twins no less. The woman’s husband reported after the tragedy that his wife was small, weighing only one hundred pounds at a height just over five feet tall. However, there was nothing unusual about the pregnancy, and the nine months went by without any major issues.

A scheduled C-section was already in place, because one of babies was in breech position. The day before the planned surgery, the mother went in for her preoperational appointment. Her blood pressure was elevated, and so the doctors decided that it would make sense to have the surgery performed that day instead. Both children were born that afternoon, about two minutes apart. However, things soon went awry. The woman’s husband explains that he watched as doctors soon began struggling to control her postoperative bleeding. He reports noticing her slowly slip away as she lay on the Intensive Care Unit table. Her heart stopped at one point, and doctors were able to restart it temporarily. As doctors tried to frantically save her, the husband was eventually asked to leave the room. An hour or two later, while holding his newborns in a private room, he was given the news that his wife had gone.

It was an unspeakable tragedy that the victim’s entire family is obviously still absorbing. It is a tragic reminder that mothers depend on the proper care of their medical providers during these births just as much as the new children. Considering this deadly birth occurred only two weeks ago, there are still many questions to be answered. The hospital where the birth accident occurred has not commented on the tragedy. The state’s Health Department is investigating the situation, and a medical examiner is expected to soon issue a report identifying a conclusive cause of death. The Chicago birth injury lawyers at our firm send sincere condolences to the family at this difficult time.

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December 10, 2011

Umbilical Cord Clamping Delay May Prove Beneficial

The New York Times reported late last month on new researcher indicating that changing the timing of clamping of an umbilical cord may have health benefits for the young child. Specifically, the new research team found that when the umbilical cord is clamped affects long-term iron levels in the infant. If the data is supported then it may suggest that standard practices need to be altered for most area childbirths.

The study conducted by Swedish researchers involved examination of 334 infants. Half of the group had their cord clamped within ten seconds of their birth. The other half of the group stayed connected to the cord for significantly longer—at least three minutes but sometimes longer. All other potentially relevant aspects of the two groups were held constant. In other words they were statistically identical in gestational age, head circumference, mother’s age, and similar features. The researchers hypothesized that there might be difference in the levels of iron in the blood of the infants depending on how much time had elapsed from the birth to the clamping of the umbilical cord. Iron deficiency is a birth injury that can affect youngsters soon after they are born.

The first blood tests taken two days after the birth of the research participants showed no significant differences in iron levels. However, blood taken from the infants later—four months after their birth—found a difference. The iron concentrations in children who had the cord clamping delayed were forty five percent higher than those whose cords were cut within ten seconds of birth. Importantly, there were no adverse effects seen with the delayed clamping. Often in these situations, medical researchers will find that a course of conduct produces both benefits but also leads to increased risk of a separate birth injury. In those cases, medical professionals are forced to closely weigh the pros and cons of each option. However, this umbilical cord research suggests that not to be the case. Colloquially many medical professionals had suspected that delayed clamping led to an increase in jaundice. However, the medical team in this study found that there were no differences in jaundiced rates based on when the cord was clamped.

It will be interesting to see if this new information is further supported and incorporated into practices by obstetricians. The" target="_blank">Chicago injury lawyers at our firm have often explained how the reasonableness of medical conduct often hinges on the practices of others in the area. Legal negligence rules are based on the mythical “reasonable man.” However, in practice whether or not a medical professional acted reasonably in any given situation hinges on whether or not other professionals would have acted similarly when faced with the same situations. When new research comes out that counsels toward a new course of conduct, it may not immediately make it unreasonable not to follow it. But as information spreads, evidence mounts, and practices change it could reach a point where it is negligent for the doctor not to abide by the new practice. When their conduct causes injury to the child or mother, then a birth injury lawsuit may be appropriate.

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December 9, 2011

Community Support Helps Family with Two Daughters with Cerebral Palsy

Earlier this week WKBW News shared the story of a family that has had to overcome many struggles after their twin girls were both born with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is actually a term that refers to a range of problems that involve brain and nervous system functions. Those suffering from cerebral palsy face a myriad of problems affecting thinking, hearing, vision, movement, and most other basic human actions. Virtually all cerebral palsy sufferers require close, around-the-clock care for their entire lives. That is why when the harm is caused by a preventable medical mistake a birth injury lawsuit is often filed so that the involved families with have the resources they need to provide the lifetime of care.

In this case, the young girls have been aided by strong community support. The girls, now fourteen years old, have daily struggles, but their family works hard to ensure that they live as normal a life as possible. For example, the family’s home only has one bathroom, and it is on the second floor of the house. However, the girls cannot use the stairs, and their family carries them up every time. This has become an even more burdensome task as the girls have grown older and bigger. However, they had no other options, and so, like any good family, they simply did what they had to do. It is these daily activities that are often forgotten when people think about the long-term consequences of birth injuries.

Raising the girls had taken a toll on the family finances, but it became essential that the family have a handicap accessible bathroom on the first floor of their house. Fortunately, in this case, the family received some much needed community assistance. After working with a local state Senator and reaching out to others in the community, the family received the help they needed. Nearby residents devoted time, money, and labor, and eventually the family was able to begin construction on the bathroom. Ground was broken last week. At the groundbreaking the family thanked the long list of businesses and individuals that have worked to help in the remodeling effort. The state Senator who aided in the effort noted that “This significant quality of life improvement for the girls was achieved as a result of the family’s tireless work ethic and unwillingness to quit when it came to the health and safety of their children.”

The Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm know how hard so many families work to provide what is necessary for their disabled children to have the best quality of life possible. It remains tragic when many of them are simply unable to have access to the services they need to get by each day—including basic accessibility issues. When the disability was preventable and caused by mistakes made by the medical team during delivery, then the law demands that those who caused the problem provide redress for their losses. The compensation goes toward things exactly like that here—nursing care, wheelchairs, accessible vehicles, home changes, and other requirements.

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December 8, 2011

Debate Rages About Continuous Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring

The Sacramento Bee reported this week on a new debate about the need for monitoring the heart rate of fetuses. As blog readers know, the monitoring of these heart rates is often important in allowing medical care providers to identify when there might be a problem with the child. Identifying fetal distress early and properly acting on it is vital to ensuring that preventable birth injuries are actually prevented. Failure to take appropriate action in these situations is at the heart of many birth injury lawsuits. In many ways it would seem completely logical for the monitoring to be conducted as thoroughly as possible.

However, some suggest that the constant monitoring actually causes more harm than good. They explain that the practice could result in unnecessary panic for both patients and doctors. Apparently, fetal heart rates can drop for a minute or two every four to five hours without other problems. There is then confusion about whether the physicians should intervene even though there are no other signs of distress. Short-live decelerations of the heart rate are occasionally a feature of pre-labor conditions, some argue. Therefore, they do not believe the pre-labor monitoring is necessary.

At the end of the day, the monitoring decision is mostly about finances. If the monitoring is not necessary, then many suggest that the resources of maintaining the monitoring should not be undertaken at the moment when it is unnecessary. This is a logical proposition, especially considering that healthcare costs have been steadily increasing over the years. However, it is vital that a proper balance be sought. It is inexcusable to pull the plug on the monitoring before it becomes especially clear that such monitoring truly provides little value to the patient. Also, it would be illogical to base the decision on the fact that some doctors might panic when a natural deceleration of the heart rate is spotted. Of course, the proper remedy if that is the motivation is not to remove the monitoring but to better train the physicians to understand what the proper course of action should be.

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers know that there is often a bit of confusion about these distinctions. It is one thing to make the general statement that errors are always going to be part of the medical process because humans are involved. That is likely true. However, it does not get to the root of the issue—or the legal question—about what the consequences of those errors should be. In other words, it may be true that errors will always exist, but those who make those errors are still required to compensate those hurt by the medical mistakes. It is not a legal excuse to say that a birth injury resulted because of a basic mistake that all humans make occasionally. If that is the case, then there is almost assuredly negligence that requires the wrongdoer to compensate the victim. The fact that an individual (or doctor) makes a mistake that leads to civil liability is not automatically a judgment from high about the overall quality of their work. Instead, it simply means that in this one particular instance they did not act properly and hurt another.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Understanding Cerebral Palsy

Birth Injuries Often Have Lifelong Consequences

December 7, 2011

New Test May Allow For Earlier Detection of Difficult Childbirths

Daily Rx reported this week on a new imaging test that may allow mothers to avoid difficult childbirths that often result in birth injuries. It is often helpful to think of two kinds of birth injuries, those caused by improper fetal development early in the pregnancy and those caused by problems at the moment of birth. Many of the problems that occur early on are difficult to prevent, as knowledge is still limited in the area. However, injuries caused by complications during delivery often hinge on the actions (or lack of actions) of the medical team deciding how the birth proceeds. That is why, more often than not, birth injury lawsuits are filed in connection to these delivery problems.

Fortunately, a new test may now be available which will help medical professionals prevent trouble during childbirth. The test is claimed to be able to predict ahead of time whether or not a birth will be smooth or difficult—allowing medical providers to plan ahead and potentially avoid complications. A team of French medical researchers tested the system which uses three dimensional images to simulate birth details. For example, they can analyze whether a child’s head has not turned properly which indicates that there may be trouble when it travels down the birth canal. Analyzing the child’s position in this way, before the birth, allowed the research doctors to correctly identify problematic births before they actually occurred.

By identifying the trouble earlier, doctors are able to know what to do to correct the problem. One of the main issues that our Illinois birth injury lawyers see time and again are doctors who fail to act properly when under the time pressure of discovering a birth problem in the middle of delivery. This test, if effective, can help doctors avoid that time pressure and plan ahead for extra steps that will need to be taken—or to schedule a C-section.

It is too early to tell how universally effective this new technique will prove to be. The researchers in this first study looked at images of 24 pregnant women using a new MRI computer program which tracks a baby’s womb growth. The team then generated three dimensional pictures of the mother’s pelvis while identifying the available routes of the child through the birth canal. That analysis allowed them to “score” each mother on a scale that predicted whether or not there would be complications during the delivery. In virtually all cases those mothers estimated to have a “highly favorable” birth without complications delivered normally. Conversely those who had been flagged for concerns actually required special intervention, C-section, or vacuum extraction.

Our birth injury attorneys believe that this system may significantly reduce the prevalence of unexpected birthing problems. Currently, doctors can usually only gauge likely birth complications ahead of time by measuring the size of a pelvis—a consistently unreliable indicator of potential delivery problems. This unreliability has significant consequences. For example, an unplanned C-section birth comes with a six to seven times increased risk of injury or death (for the mother or child) compared to planned C-sections.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Dramatic Rise in Cesarean Births

Report Finds Recent Rise in C-Section Births

December 6, 2011

Two Levin & Perconti Blogs Advance in Top Tort Law Blog Contest – Need Your Vote!

The latest results of Lexis Nexis’s Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011 were recently announced. Our entire team was honored to learn that two of our blogs—Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog were included in the list as one of the top 25 tort blogs in the country. The selection was made thanks to nominations from readers. All of us at Levin & Perconti were proud of the honor, as we work hard to ensure that our blogs provide timely, informative, and helpful information to our legal colleague and the entire community.

However, the contest is still not over. There is still one more round left, and we need your support.

The contest is continuing for the next four days to narrow down the current list of 25 to THE top tort blog of the year. Unlike the nomination round, this time they are not taking votes by comments. Instead, an actual online poll has been created where you can select one winner out of the final list. You may have to “log in” to vote, BUT you are able to do that using your Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, or Twitter account.

The voting ends at Midnight Eastern Time on Friday, December 9th. Please take a second to click this link, and Vote for the Illinois Injury Blog or Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog.

Thanks so much for your continued support.

December 5, 2011

Chicago Birth Injury Lawsuit Ends in $7.5 Million Settlement

The News-Gazette reported recently on the end of a Chicago birth injury case which had been filed by the guardians of a girl who, it was claimed, developed cerebral palsy as a result of problematic care during her birth. According to court filings, the young girl was born in 2002 at the Christ Medical Center. She underwent a traumatic birth, and ultimately was born with significant injuries.

In this Illinois birth injury lawsuit—just like many others—the young girl developed signs of fetal distress during the birthing process. Caregivers monitor certain aspects of the fetus’s health during the birth so that they can be aware if anything is wrong—such as lack of oxygen to the brain or a stopped heartbeat. Then, the medical professionals are able to respond quickly with emergency measures if necessary to prevent the problem from continuing and causing long-term injuries to the child. Those emergency procedures may include use of special equipment or calling for a C-section birth.

This suit claimed that caregivers did not act fast enough when they were made aware of signs of fetal distress. In many more cases than not a caregiver will do whatever is necessary to quickly and properly do everything to account for the fetal distress. However, there are certain cases where medical providers fail to act properly. In those cases, the consequence to the child with prolonged oxygen deprivation or lack of blood flow to the brain can be severe. That is what seemingly happened in this case.

The girl here was deprived of oxygen for a considerable length of time. That oxygen deprivation had long-term consequences for the girl who otherwise would have been born without major health problems. Doctors soon discovered that the oxygen deprivation led to severe and permanent brain damage. By the time she was a year old she was officially diagnosed with cerebral palsy. These birth injuries can be particularly severe, and the victim in this case will require close, around-the-clock care for the rest of her life. Her family reports that they are working hard on her mental development, but they understand that she will face unique challenges throughout her life. Her physical limitations are similarly severe.

A few years after the girl’s birth, her grandparents became official guardians of the child. They then sought legal advice and proceeded with this birth injury lawsuit. After the case proceeded and evidence was collected, the hospital involved decided that working out a settlement was likely in the best interests of both parties. Recently a $7.5 million agreement was reached, and it is now waiting on judicial approval. The doctors involved in the situation that were also named in the suit were not part of that settlement.

The award will hopefully allow the family to have the peace of mind of knowing that their loved one will have access to the resources necessary now and in the future. Many parents, and in this case grandparents, are understandably worried about what will happen to their child’s care once they are no longer around. When wrongdoers are required to pay for the consequences of these actions, those families are comforted with the knowledge that the children in question will be taken care of for their entire lives, even considering the substantial aid that they will need for decades to come.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Family Awarded $4.5 Million Following Birth Injury Lawsuit

Family Receives $1.5M Settlement for Birth Injury/Wrongful Death Lawsuit

December 4, 2011

County Plans to Settle Birth Injury Lawsuit

Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm is proud to work on birth injury cases, because they often represent the situations where victims are most in need of legal redress. When a mistake is made during the birthing process that could have been prevented, families are often forced to forever alter their lives as they work to help their disabled youngster meet the challenges of growing up with a defect or disability. Their task is made significantly more difficult if they do not have the resources to ensure that their loved one can receive the close medical and caregiving support to meet their basic needs. For children suffering particularly debilitating injuries, the costs of access to that basic level of care and equipment can be incredibly high. It is for that reason that some birth injury lawsuit end with significant verdicts or settlements.

For example, the Contra Costa Times reported last week on a proposed settlement in a birth injury case. The suit in question was filed two and a half years ago by a woman and her family after the woman experienced a traumatic childbirth. Shortly after he was born, the woman’s son was diagnosed with neurological injuries that were caused by fetal distress. The suit claimed that deficient care at the facility was responsible for the injury, and that the child would have been born completely healthy were it not for that negligence. Specifically, the court documents alleged that the 18-year old mother showed clear signs of fetal distress while in labor. Yet, ignoring those signs, the doctors involved failed to take action. An emergency C-section was likely necessary but it never occurred. The legal action therefore sought redress for the costs of the lifetime of care that the young child would need as a result of the error.

As the legal process proceeded the legal representatives for the public hospital involved in the suit and the mother’s attorney met to discuss a possible settlement. Many cases such as this ultimately do settle, often because the negligent parties become aware of their negligence and wish to avoid the time and expense that a trial often brings. For example, in this case, the attorney for the mother worked with the opposing counsel to reach a proposed agreement whereby the hospital would provide $2.8 million to settle the medical malpractice lawsuit.

In addition, as part of the settlement agreement, the facility will pay for the lien that was issued against the family by state officials for their failure to pay significant medical bills. It is often an added disgrace that after these medical errors are made, families are left with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, on top of the financial needs of their new child. Many families simply cannot afford those bills and are forced to fend off creditors and others who seek to take their often already modest possessions to pay for those bills. Many families truly have their lives destroyed by these events, and it is only logical that those responsible for the resulting harm pay for the consequences of their actions.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Birth Injury Lawsuit Against Midwife Settles for $730,000

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filed After Pregnancy Complications Leads to Deadly Blood Infection

December 3, 2011

Teen With Spina Bifida Inspires Community

This week the Montgomery Advisor reported on the inspirational story of a boy born with spina bifida who has not let his birth injury prevent him from living his life to the fullest. Our Chicago birth injury lawyer at times get mired down in the tragedies of these injuries in our work helping families who have loved ones harmed by preventable birth injuries. There is no way around that fact that all parents wish that their children are given the same opportunities as all others. The extra challenges facing many children born these injuries are clear.

Yet, it is misguided to simply wallow in the harm caused by the harm and ignore the fact that many of the children born with these problems go on to live amazing lives that better all those around them. For example, the teen profiled in the Montgomery Advisor story recently completed a three mile race. The race included many hills and was tough for those on their feet, let alone a teen in a wheelchair. However, the young man refused to give up, even refusing to wear gloves—commonly worm by those in chairs to help maneuver. The boy was born in 1998 with spina bifida—a birth defect caused by the incomplete development of the spinal cord and coverings. It presents a wide range of problems for those inflicted, and the boy in this case is confined to a wheelchair. The fourth of five children, the boy has four brothers all of whom refuse to treat him as if he is any different.

The young man had a staggering thirteen surgeries by the time he was ten years old. His family explains that his early troubles have made him particularly tough, and he is capable of weathering any storm that comes his way. All those around him explain that the boy is constantly upbeat and working each day to warm the spirits of his friends, family members, and classmates. Not only does the teen refuse to let his condition get him down, but he has big plans for ways to help others in his situation. He is currently working to start a wheelchair basketball program in this city. He is also an avid football fan, and closely follows the Auburn college football program.

Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm who works on birth injury cases appreciates the amazing achievements of many youngsters that have been forced to deal with their birth defects. Stories abound of families that have turned their tragedy into opportunities to share lessons about perseverance, courage, and hard work. Those achievements should never be minimized. In fact, our work on Chicago birth injury lawsuits in many ways is guided by the goal of ensuring these families have the resources they need to turn the tragedy into something positive. It is particularly difficult to maximize the quality of life of one born with a birth defect if every day brings more worry about whether or not the necessary resources will be available to provide the day to day care the injured child needs.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Birth Accident Lawsuit Reveals Extreme Emotional Pain Associated with Loss

Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed After Child Born with Cerebral Palsy

December 2, 2011

Using Forceps May Lead to Fewer Birthing Injuries

Illinois birth injuries which ultimately lead to a birth defect lawsuit are usually ones that occur just before the child is actually born. This usually makes the situations seem particularly tragic in that a life is forever changed in the blink of an eye. In many of these situations a baby had developed entirely normal and was just waiting to enter the world completely healthy. Yet, because of some mistake, lapse in judgment, or unreasonable delay, the child develops an injury that forever alters their life. Those families that are forced to deal with these problems often feel a sense of regret, thinking that their loved one developed serious problems that could and should have been prevented.

It goes without saying that work should be done to make these injuries as rare as possible. Fortunately, many medical researchers are working to do just that. Seemingly every day there is new information that is released revealing new information about what things may or may not contribute to this harm during childbirth. For example, Reuters last week published a story about new researcher which suggests forceps use may be unfairly going out of style. Specifically, use of forceps may help prevent brain injuries, at least when compared to alternatives. When a difficult childbirth situation exists, the medical professional usually has a range of ways in which he or she can handle the situation. The doctor can chose to use forceps, a vacuum pump, or may perhaps decide that a C-section is necessary.

Recently, out of those three choices, forceps use has been losing ground, as C-section rates have risen considerably, and vacuum pumps are used more than forceps. New research suggests these trends may not be wise. More brain injuries may be caused by the lessening use of forceps. Researchers out of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are questioning vacuum pump and C-section use, claiming that forceps actually lead to fewer child brain injuries when compared to the others. One doctor involved said that the trend away from forceps use was confusing to begin with, because there never was much evidence suggesting that these alternative methods were safer in most emergency circumstances.

The latest research which involved the analysis of 400,000 live births in first time mothers suggests the opposite might be true. Out of that group, deliveries involving forceps resulted in forty five percent fewer infant brain injuries when compared with vacuum pump and C-section births. The brain injuries in question, when arising in infants, are most often caused by seizures which are less common when forceps birth occur. The seizures are usually caused by prolonged oxygen deprivation. Forceps often allow the birth to happen quicker, meaning that a child who has oxygen deprivation problem receives emergency medical intervention much sooner than often occurs in vacuum pump delivers. However, a different kind of brain injury resulting in head bleeding (subdural hematoma) was slightly less common when C-sections were performed.

At the end of the day, those involved in this latest research project suggest that it is incumbent upon patients to work with their doctor to plan ahead for these decisions. They advise expectant mothers and their families to talk with their doctor ahead of time so that if an emergency birth is needed there is no question about what steps should be taken. Unfortunately, many times there is confusion at times of emergency, leading medical providers to make mistakes or delay. Those problems often lead to permanent damage that cannot be undone and will forever influence the life of the new child.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Hypothermia Treatment for Lack of Oxygen Birth Injuries

Illinois Birth Injury Lawsuit Settles for Over $15 Million

December 1, 2011

Zoloft Remains on the Market Despite Known Dangers for Pregnant Women

Birth injuries have a myriad of causes, some preventable, many unpreventable. The legal consequences of these injuries are obviously linked to whether or not something could have been done which would have prevented the harm from arising. If something could have been done, it does not automatically mean that there is legal liability and that a birth injury lawsuit should be filed. Instead, in most cases a reasonableness inquiry need be conducted. In other words, did an individual or legal entity (business, hospital, etc.) act in a way contrary to what a reasonable individual or entity would have done in similar circumstances. If so, then legal liability attaches.

The reasonableness analysis is at the heart of most personal injury cases. It is an objective standard in that it is not based on what the specific individual involved thought was reasonable. For example, even if a doctor believes he is acting appropriately, he or she may still be found to have been negligent if a “reasonably prudent” doctor in similar circumstances would not have though those actions appropriate. In other words, what is going on inside the head of the actual individual involved in not all that relevant.

However, this is not to say that the objective standard of reasonableness does not change. This is especially true in the medical context. Community standards and knowledge factor into what makes something reasonable or not reasonable to the ordinary member of the profession. In particular, as more information is obtained about the safety of a procedure or efficacy of a drug, the practice of doctor must change. Failure to adapt to change in knowledge means that conduct that formerly was reasonable will no longer be so under the law.

A new story from PR Web this week explores an ongoing issue of failure to adapt to changing knowledge which may lead to more birth injury lawsuits. Zoloft is an antidepressant that has become one of the most popular drugs in the world since its 1991 release. Its common use has resulted in billions of dollars in profits for its maker, Pfizer. At first, medical professionals had no idea that the drug may be harmful to child development when taken by pregnant patients. However, in recent years there have been many warnings about the harm that can result. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with many of the most respected medical research publications have issued warnings about Zoloft use for expectant mothers.

Unfortunately, despite these concerns, many who may be harmed by Zoloft use continue to take the drug. While the prescription may not have been unreasonable at the very beginning of the drug’s use, that changed as risk factors were identified. Those who made the product and prescribed it likely distributed the drug even while knowing that risk. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers know that this conduct may have violated the civil law. As a result, all those families who had a child born with a birth defect which may have been caused by the drug use should visit with a legal professional to learn what legal options may be available to them.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Connection Between Birth Defects and Antidepressants

Birth Injuries – Could There Be a Link to Autism?