March 28, 2012

Birth Injury Lawsuit Used to Challenge Constitutionality of Damage Caps

Constitutional challenges are usually the legal actions that garner the most media attention. One need only turn on any news channel this week, for example, to hear extended talk about the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The fascination with constitutional challenges is not surprising because, unlike regular civil actions, the outcomes will usually affect all community members—not just the individual parties in the individual suit.

Constitutional cases essentially always involve conduct by the government. After all, the constitution only binds public entities, not private citizens. In many cases, these legal suits challenge laws passed by legislators. The challenges can be made at the federal level (like the one directed at Obamacare) or at the state level. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers know that when it comes to state constitutions, perhaps no constitutional challenges have garnered more attention than those directed at state tort reform laws.

In Illinois, our state legislator passed a law in 2005 that placed an arbitrary cap on non-economic damages that Illinois medical malpractice plaintiffs could receive, regardless of the jury determination. In 2010, a legal challenge of that law reached the Illinois Supreme Court. At that time the court found the law unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers clause in the state constitution.

Many community members are unfamiliar with the mechanics of these constitutional challenges. With some variations, in most cases there are specific requirements that have to be met before a challenge to the law can even be brought forward. For one thing, not just anyone can constitutionally challenge any law that they do not like. Instead, a plaintiff must have “standing.” In general, this requires that the plaintiff actually be affected by the law in question.

This principle is perhaps best explained by considering a current challenge to a state’s damage cap law. As reported in the News-Leader, this week the Missouri Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to a law in the state that caps the amount of money that plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits can recover. The challenge is not being made in a vacuum, however, but is instead filed by a family who had previously won a birth injury lawsuit.

In the suit, the family alleged that the medical team involved in the birth of their son failed to notice that he was in fetal distress. As a result of their mistakes, the boy suffered permanent and severe injuries. He has cerebral palsy, cannot walk, and will he need very close care throughout his life. The jury in the case agreed that the child’s injuries were caused by negligence. They awarded the family $1.45 million in non-economic damages. However, because of the cap law, the family will receive less than ¼ of that actual non-economic damage award.

Following the imposition of the law in their specific case, the plaintiffs appealed and filed the constitutional challenge to the law, arguing that it violated the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Missouri constitution. Had the family not first won a verdict and had the award cut by the law, then they likely would not have had standing to challenge the ruling.

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March 26, 2012

The Financial Savings of Curbing C-Sections

As reported late last week by Reuters, a new study is suggesting that unnecessary C-section procedures increase medical care by $2 billion every year worldwide. As the Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm have often noted, the problem is particularly potent here in the United States. Estimates suggest that over the last few decades C-section rates have steadily increased. They now roughly account for about 1/3 of all U.S. births—the highest rate of all time.

Of course, perhaps most importantly, unnecessary C-sections create unnecessary risks for patients. Obviously there are situations where C-sections are absolutely essential. In fact, many Illinois birth injury lawsuits arise when medical teams fail to act reasonably to perform a C-section in a timely fashion in response to fetal distress or trauma. However, there are other situations where a C-section is not actually necessary. It should never be forgotten that C-sections are serious abdominal surgeries that come with inherent risks. Many mothers have developed infections or have suffered extreme blood loss as a result of these procedures. In addition, having a C-section can lead to problems in subsequent pregnancies. Placenta abnormalities are common in subsequent births which can lead to severe labor bleeding.

On top of the increased medical risks, unnecessary C-section also comes at a high cost. It is simply much more expensive to have a surgical birth than a vaginal birth. Cost savings are always a hot topic, particularly because tightening personal and public budgets. Spending money unnecessarily on healthcare costs should be avoided.

What is responsible for the rising C-section rates? Various possible explanations have been offered. One innocuous reason may be an increase in multiple births. Twins and other multiple births quite frequently have to be delivered via C-section. The more multiple births, the more C-sections. However, perhaps a more potent reason is that more mothers are requesting the surgical birth in order to avoid labor or have more control over the time of birth. This follows the trend of induced labors of all stripes becoming more common.

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers appreciate that there are various different approaches that might be able to lower the C-section rates. For example, many doctors suggest that perhaps the best way to do that is by limiting first C-sections. Because mothers who have one C-section usually have surgical births for all subsequent children, avoiding the first child being born surgically might go a long way to addressing the problem. Meeting that goal, in turn, requires limits of the use of induced labor only to those cases where it is medically necessary.

In addition, many doctors suggest that there should be resurgence in vaginal births after C-section” (VBACs). There remains a stigma and unnecessary fear associated with giving birth vaginally after already having a C-section. However, many doctors explain that there are many women who could successful give birth vaginally. Unfortunately, for staffing reasons many hospitals do not even offer VBACs, essentially limiting the mother’s option and making it harder to actually lower the C-section rate in many locations.

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March 25, 2012

New Lawsuit Alleges Preventable Injuries During C-Section

Eastern Iowa News reported last week on a new birth injury lawsuit filed by a woman who claims that both she and her newborn son were hurt because of medical malpractice during a C-section delivery.

According to report, the problems stemmed from a traumatic birth that took place in late February of 2008. The mother arrived at a state hospital while in active labor. The labor went on for eight hours before the medical team decided that a surgical C-section birth was necessary. While in the operating room having the procedure performed, the lawsuit claims that the dome of the woman’s bladder was cut. Not only that, but her son was born with severe complications. He has a skull deformity, partial skull fracture, and suffered a subdural hemorrhage—a significant brain injury.

The mother eventually field suit explaining that the injuries should have been prevented. Besides her bladder laceration, she also claims to have developed a range of complications including a pelvic abscess, bowel obstruction, and wound separation. T he hospital in this case was affiliated with a state university which itself is run by the public at large. As a result, the lawsuit names the state as defendant, because the state is responsible for the conduct of employees at state-owned facilities.

The family claims that they are seeking recovery for both the mother and child’s injuries. The damages they are hoping to have compensated are similar to those recoverable in all birth injury cases. Specifically, the documents filed with the court explains that the family seeks recovery for the child’s physical and mental pain, loss of full body, loss of income and loss of earning capacity. In addition, they are seeking recovery for future medical expenses. Similarly, the mother is praying for damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of companionship.

The overall effect that these preventable injuries have on the involved families is always hard to encapsulate in financial terms. However, the law has created a system whereby fellow community members can analyze the situation to agree upon financial sums that they deem appropriate considering what happened in each individual case. It is far from perfect, but it is the best process we have to fairly compensate those for losses that cannot be fully fixed.

Preventable injuries caused by errors made during the birthing process can happen in vaginal birth as well as during C-sections. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm has worked with many local families who have suffered injuries similar to those outlined in this case. If you or a loved one has been hurt during pregnancy, please reach out to our attorneys to see how we can help. We understand that many families do not have all of the answers when it comes to understanding how and why their injuries occurred. Part of the work that our attorneys do is helping to ensure a full investigation into your situation is conducted to understand exactly what happened and to determine if it should have been prevented. In other words, there is nothing to lose from at least explaining what happened in your case to learn more.

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March 24, 2012

Traumatic Childbirth May Increase Risk of Mother Suffering Urinary Incontinence

On a seemingly daily basis medical researchers are learning more about various activities, substances, and treatment that affect a developing child in a pregnancy. Similarly, though less often discussed, doctors are also learning more about ways that pregnancy affects mothers—in the both the short and long term.

Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm appreciates that there may not be any easy way to prevent certain complications. Discovering the causes of certain pregnancy problems and complications does not mean that prevention is always possible. However, you can be sure that medical researchers will take the causal information and work to develop cures or preventative protocols. Once those treatment options are available, it is important for all medical professionals to be sure that their patients are made aware of them. Failure to do so may one day be medical malpractice.

One recent story from HealthCanal.com highlights new (and unique) information that medical professionals are learning about the long-term consequences of certain pregnancies. As published last week at the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a new study focused on the connection between urinary incontinence and vaginal childbirth. Urinary incontinence is a serious issue for many women, with real ramifications on everyday life.

Researchers from the University of Gethenburg in Sweden examined the connection between women who suffered from the incontinence and had given birth in the last 10 years. They then analyzed whether the births were vaginal or involved caesarean section. All of the study participants had only one child. In total, over 6,000 women participated in the study with information collected via use of a medical birth register and questionnaires.

What did they find?

The main finding was that urinary incontinence was considerably higher in women who had vaginal deliveries when compared to those who had C-sections. Woman who had given birth vaginally had a 40.3% risk of suffering the urinary incontinence compared with only 28.8% of mothers who had a C-section. In addition, the chance that the condition would last for a long time (more than ten years) was three time more likely for those with vaginal deliveries.

Our Illinois birth injury attorneys understand that it is important to remember that these findings indicate that the vaginal births are only one of many factors leading to urinary incontinence. The amount of trauma present during the birth is also a factor. If another birth injury develops because of particularly rough process, then the risk of incontinence goes up even further. Outside of the birthing context, obesity and aging are also factors in the development of the condition.

Of course it is also important to reiterate that the increase risk of incontinence is certainly not a promotion for having caesarean sections whenever possible. A holistic approach has to be considered, of which this study is just a small part. As the lead author of this latest study summarized, “Women need to look at all the information when deciding on a mode of delivery as despite vaginal delivery...being linked to urinary incontinence, caesarean section involves its own risks.”

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March 23, 2012

H.R. 5 Passes House and Moves to the Senate

As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives voted this week on the healthcare bill that included many so-called “tort reform” provisions. As our Illinois birth injury lawyers have often explained, the measure would have significant implications for those who suffer a birth injury caused by unreasonable conduct by their medical care provider. Medical malpractice lawsuits are the target of those who are pushing H.R. 5 and similar tort reform measures—that would include virtually all birth injury suits. Therefore, ensuring that local residents have open access to the justice system and medical providers are held accountable when they act unreasonably requires defeat of this bill.

The Thursday vote on H.R. 5, expectedly, resulted in the bill’s passage out of the chamber by a 223-181 vote. However, it is important not to focus solely on the raw vote total. As the American Association for Justice explained in an advocacy update on the bill, examined in perspective, the final vote actually brings some good news. H.R. 5 is supported by the Republican leadership, and they are often able to corral their members into supporting or opposing proposals. In this case, however, ten Republicans broke ranks with their party and voted against the measure. Another three voted “present” in a clear sign of their disproval for the bill. Also, the unity of the Democrats on this measure was the stronger than for any other civil justice bill. Only seven Democrats defected and voted in support of this bill.

The battle now moves to the Senate, where the Democrats are in control—albeit by a much slimmer margin. The AAJ explains that the strong No votes in the House will likely be an important factor in reminding Senators of the opposition to this measure. Even if the bill makes it out of the Senate, the President has already strongly indicated that he would veto the bill. In a policy statement on the measure issued this week it was reported unambiguously that, “If the President is presented with H.R. 5, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” The letter also unequivocally voiced opposition to arbitrary caps on damages which prevent plaintiffs from receiving just compensation for injuries that they suffer.

Each birth injury attorney at our firm urges all those who understand the importance of equal access to a jury system to continue to monitor the progress of this bill. We will be sure to provide more updates as news develops on the measure’s progress in the chamber. Patient safety begins with accountability. Mothers and their new children have a right to expect reasonable care be provided to them at all times during the labor process. It is medical malpractice when they do not receive that level of care. Ensuring that future families do not face the same situation requires those medical providers to be held responsible for their conduct and incentivized to improve their care. H.R. 5, and bills like it, would do nothing more than take away that incentive. That is why they must be defeated.

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March 22, 2012

Amazing Medical Treatment Allows Girl’s Heart to be “Trained” to Grow New Part

The Wall Street Journal shared a fascinating story this week that highlights the amazing work by some of our nation’s leading medical experts to help children who are born with various defects or birth injuries. The article shared the story of one girl, now four years old, who was born with only one pumping chamber in her heart. This defect is a very serious one that can prove fatal for the child. The condition, known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, makes it difficult for children to pump sufficient levels of oxygen throughout their body. This can have serious effects on development and saps energy quickly. Without surgery the fatality rate for these children is 70% within the first year.

However medical experts from Yale University have began a unique, experimental procedure in an effort to save the girl’s life. Specifically, the doctors implanted a bioabsorbable tube in her chest that dissolves over time. This tube was seeded with various cells—including stem cells—that had been taken from the girl’s own body (her bone marrow).

So what has the tube done?

Amazingly, the cells that were on the tube (which has already dissolved) are working to grow a new blood vessel in the girl’s body. The goal is to induce regeneration, using the body’s own cells to naturally heal itself. The girl in this case used to have little stamina. However, since the surgery and tube implantation she has the energy of any other four-year old. The family’s doctors believe that she will be able to begin school next year right on time.


The girl’s doctor explains that this case “is a real milestone and broadly important for the field of tissue engineering.” The achievement was a long time coming. The girl’s doctor engaged in four years of laboratory research before even beginning the FDA approval process to test on patients. Then, it took another four years and thousands of pages of data before being given the official green light to try to surgery on a patient. The process is still experimental, however, so it is not available to the public at large.

Regenerative medicine is an exciting new area in medical that mimics self-healing mechanisms in the animal kingdom. Salamanders and starfish have long been able to re-grow lost or injured body parts. New explorations into stem cell research are slowly allowing scientists and medical researchers to harness the regenerative power of the body. What was once thought only to be possible in the womb (growth) now may be harnesses later in life.

Observers report than the potential of stem-cell developments is fueling research at many academic laboratories. Many scientists are working to figure out the most effective ways of harnessing potential regenerative power to heal damage from heart attacks, spinal cord injuries, kidney problems, and much more.

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers remain astounded by the amazing work of cutting edge medical teams that are producing regenerative medicine options. Hopefully one day these techniques will branch out far enough that many different types of birth injuries and defects, from brachial plexus injuries to cerebral palsy may be able to be fully or partial cured. All research efforts into these areas should be fully supported.

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March 21, 2012

Turner Syndrome & Cerebral Palsy

A heartbreaking article in the New Jersey News this week shares one family’s unique story of living with and losing a loved one who suffered from a rare birth defect. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers appreciate that the experiences and emotions revealed by the family in this story are shared by many families in our area who have gone through or are going through similar situations. The story reveals the immense uncertainty that faces many of these families as their child grows up.

The family in this case gave birth to their last child, Jane, in the early summer of 1963. At first there seemed to be absolutely nothing wrong, and the family was informed that they had delivered a healthy child without any birthing complications. However, when the girl was four months old she began having random choking episodes. The family’s pediatrician ignored the family when they first revealed their concerns, claiming that the choking fits were natural. It wasn’t until one of the choking episodes almost killed the baby that she was actually admitted into the hospital. Two days later medical personnel performed a “vascular ring” surgery to correct an esophagus problem that was apparently caused the choking. The girl came through it fine and the family was told that everything should work out from that point forward.

However, the girl exhibited odd behavior at two years old, and so the family went back to the hospital. Eventually, a neurological workup was performed where the doctors notice oxygen loss to the brain associated with the thoracic surgery. At that point the girl was diagnosed as suffering from cerebral palsy.

Things still didn’t seem right by the time the girl was 13 years old. She was quite short and showed no signs of going through puberty. It was only then that a chromosomal test was performed. The test revealed that the girl had a form of Turner Syndrome (TS). This occurs when a child does not have 46 chromosomes and two corresponding XX or XY chromosomes. In her case, 10% of her cells had only 45 chromosomes and one X chromosome.

The family learned that hormone therapy could do a lot to help those who suffered from TS. However, for various reasons her doctors did not want Jane to receive the treatment. Even after the family received clear advice from leaders in the TS field about the benefit of the therapies, Jane’s doctors demurred. It was only when the family took the doctor to a separate endocrinologist (away from the general practitioner at the facility where she lived) that she began received hormone therapy. She was 37 years old at the time. Unfortunately, because the treatment was given so late, she developed various complications that impacted her quality of life—such as osteoporosis and resulting bone fractures. Jane died last August at the age of 48.

Many families who have children with special need face this roller coaster experience of uncertainty that often lasts for years. The Chicago birth injury lawyers appreciate the immense toll that these sorts of challenges have on area community members. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done. But in other situations, proper treatment is withheld or delayed unnecessarily. That should never happen. It is important for family members to remain vigilant about the care their loved one receives to ensure it meets all applicable standards.

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March 20, 2012

Doctor Explains Role of OB-GYN in Reducing Toxic Chemical Effects

A story last week at HealthCanal.com delved into the results of a new study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) on the role that gynecologists and obstetricians can help reduce the harmful effects of toxic chemicals on women and children.

Our Illinois birth injury attorneys know that it is no secret that certain exposures can be harmful to pregnant women. Of course toxic exposures are harmful to everyone; the clarion call against second-hand smoke is one popular example of this recognition. The risk is perhaps heightened for pregnant women, because the developmental process for children can be sensitive. Certain exposures can ultimately lead to lifelong problems for the developing children. The new research effort out of UCSF emphasizes that the doctors involved in the care of the pregnant mothers can often do more to help eliminate the risks of these toxic exposures which may cause birth injuries.

The head researcher explained that the findings indicate that a multipronged approach to reducing the harm is the best plan. That approach would involve doctors evaluating each pregnant mother’s environmental exposure. In addition, the group suggests Ob-gyns need to do a better job of educating the expectant families on the exposures which actually do increase risk of harm. Finally, the organization is also calling on more wide-ranging government policy changes to keep more mothers free of environmental toxins.

To bolster the case for these proposed changes, the researchers noted that over the last three quarters of a century, there has been a large spike in use of both natural and synthetic chemicals. All of us are exposed to those chemicals to a far greater degree than at any time in the past. Most community members remain unaware of their extreme exposure. For example, the UCSF study found that virtually all pregnant women tested as part of the project had chemicals in their body that had been banned over 40 years ago. In other words, there is no easy way to completely rid the world of these dangerous products in the short term. Government oversight itself is not enough.

Of course, not even counting the products that are banned but still around, many dangerous chemicals are still in common use in everyday object like cooking spray and personal care products. The Chicago birth injury lawyers understand that this fact is made even more alarming considering that research continues to pour out which indicates that exposure to these chemicals can affect reproductive health and child development.

In the article published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study authors suggest, “Obstetricians, gynecologists, and other reproductive health providers can play a groundbreaking role by intervening in critical stages of human development to translate the new science into healthier future generations.”

The authors went on to explain that these medical professionals can assess each patient’s overall exposure and then provide counsel as to ways to limit the exposure. The guidance can help pregnant mothers better navigate the many potential exposure situations at home, work, and in the community.

To read the full study, please follow this link.

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March 19, 2012

Breech Birth & How it Can Lead to Preventable Birth Injuries

One of the most common signs of a problem at birth is when the infant is facing the wrong direction during delivery. Known as a “breech birth,” this occurs when the child enters the birth canal feet first instead of head first. Most children will move into “delivery position” a few weeks prior to birth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this involves the baby’s head moving toward the birth canal. However, some children will not. The latest estimates suggest that about 3-4% of all labors involve a breech—with premature infants having a higher chance of breech presentation.

Different types of breech presentations exist.

1) Footling breech: This occurs when one or both of the child’s feet enter the birth canal and are positioned to be delivered first.

2) Complete breech: A complete breech arises when the child’s buttocks point downward with knees folded and feet neat the buttocks.

3) Frank breech: Similar to a complete breech with the buttocks closest to the birth canal but with legs pointed straight and feet near the head.

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers know that while these births present a range of unique complications and risks for the mother and child, there are protocols and tools available to ensure that the child is born healthy. Various tests can be performed to catch the breech birth, allowing the medical team time to make a decision to use different techniques to avoid a birth injury. Some of these tests are very simple, and include the doctor simply placing his or her hand on the mother’s abdomen close to the due date to get an idea of where the child’s head is located. In addition, special x-rays can be used to find about many different details about the child’s size and location in the mother’s body.

Most breech babies are born healthy, without mother or child suffering a birth injury. The two main ways to deal with a baby is breech presentation is either to work to reposition the child or deliver the baby via C-section. Of course, making the decision to do either of these things first requires the medical professional determining that the baby is in breech as early as possible.

Unfortunately, each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm has worked with local families who have faced a range of injuries as a result of inadequate care received during breech situations. For example, umbilical cord prolapsed can occur in these cases. This arises when the umbilical cord is compressed as the infant moves through the birth canal. The cord provides crucial blood and oxygen supplies, and so when it is compressed the child may experience a range of brain problems or even death. If prolapse is suspected, the child must be delivered immediately, without any delay. In addition to prolapse, deliveries with awkward positions can lead the child’s head to be caught inside the mother. Excessive force is often used in these situations to get the child out. That force can lead to nerve or spinal cord damage. If your child has suffered any of these harms and you suspect that inadequate medical care might have played a role, you have the right to visit with a legal professional to learn about how the law might apply in your case.

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March 18, 2012

Hospitals Continue to Try to Lower C-Section Rates

The Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm appreciate that surgical births are seemingly always a hot topic in the medical community. For years the rate of birth that ultimately ended in a C-section crept higher and higher. This was alarming to many because, though surgical births are necessary in certain emergency situations, they come with increased risks of birth injury harm to mother and child. Therefore, the overall harm might increase if unnecessary C-sections were performed.

These concerns have led many hospitals to institute a range of goals in order to get the C-section rate down. For example, the Lund Report this week posted a story on how one hospital is trying to get its own rate down. The facility is tracking its surgical birth rate on a month-by-month basis to closely identify any trends. Nationwide, according to the March of Dimes, 25.2% of all childbirths are C-sections. Other studies have found that rate to actually be higher. The particular hospital engaged in this tracking program has found that its own rate is slightly lower, at 21.7%. Some facilities across the country have reported surgical birth rates as high as 45-50%. Overall, the United States has the highest C-section rate of any developed country in the world.

Lowering C-section rates can be difficult, because each decision has to be made on a case by case basis. If complications develop, C-sections are often absolutely essential. Failure to conduct a timely C-section in certain situations can be malpractice. That is why the main efforts at lowering the rate involve things like talking to mothers about the potential benefits of having a vaginal birth after they have already had a C-section with a previous child. These births, known as VBACs, once fell out of favor but are once again being championed by many.

In general, the facility explains that they are working on lowering the rate by individually discussing each C-section that was performed after the fact to understand why it was performed and whether changes in the future might allow a different outcome. The hospital attributes some of its success in the “Hawthorne Effect.” When doctors know that their C-section rate is being monitored, they might not be so quick to recommend a C-section when it isn’t absolutely necessary.

From the legal perspective, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer when it comes to the appropriate rate of C-section use. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers appreciate that the law looks at each case individually. In other words, all that matters in a birth injury lawsuit is: what conduct was reasonable, what conduct was actually exhibited, and whether that conduct caused harm. In many individual cases that may mean that a C-section birth should have been performed that was not. The fact that some doctors are working to lower the rate C-section overall is of no consequences in that individual legal determination. Conversely, an unnecessary surgical birth may be performed that leads to damaging consequences for the mother and child. While less common, that situation may also result in a suit if the harm could have been prevented had a reasonable medical care been provided.

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March 17, 2012

Editorial Makes Case For Hospital Births

Many mothers and their families have discussions about where they would like to give birth. Perhaps for most community members, giving birth in a hospital is the easy option. However, our Chicago birth injury attorneys appreciate that there are some families who are interested in exploring other options, including births at home with a qualified midwife. There is no easy answer that works for all families, because the decision is an inherently personal one. Various studies have seemed to suggest that birth injuries may be more common in at-home births, but those findings have been challenged by some.

No matter what one decides, the law is clear in noting that those who help in the process—midwives, doctors, nurses, and others—are held to reasonable standards of care. When they violate those standards leading to a birth injury that could have been prevented, then the involved families can file and Illinois birth injury lawsuit and seek compensation for the harm causes. The possible injuries are the same whether the birth occurs, in the hospital or somewhere else, including things like cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, shoulder dystocia, and more.

Regardless of the potential for harm in either location, debate still rages over what is the most appropriate birthing spot. For example, an article was published this week in The Atlantic that suggests that mothers should always have their children in hospitals. The argument was made by an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies and the author of the new book “Fragile Beginnings” that we wrote about earlier this week.

The doctor admits that some families have become attracted to the “home birth” movement. He counters that evidence suggests that children born at home are three times more likely to die than those born in the hospital. However, home births are also less likely to result in medical interventions like C-sections.

At the end of the day, this particular doctor suggests that the potential for complications and the easy access to emergency equipment make hospital births far safer and the right choice for most mothers.

For example, he shared one recent story about a mother who at first did not want extensive medical intervention. She opted to have birth with a midwife at home. The birth began and the midwife tried to keep the mother calm. When the cervix was fully dilated, the mother began to push. The doctor explains that this part of the process should only last about two hours. However, in this case, the midwife allowed the pushing to continue for more than eight hours before calling 9-11 and getting emergency help.

The woman was brought to the doctor who immediately needed to strengthen her uterus among many other interventions. He admitted that he could have told the woman that a C-section was necessary, but he knew that it was the last thing she wanted. Eventually, as the baby’s heart rate began to drop, a vacuum extraction device was used to get the baby out. Fortunately, the child was healthy. However, the doctor reminded readers that the condition could have been much worse, particularly if the hospital not be on the ready.

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March 16, 2012

Mystery Birth Injury Misdiagnosed as Cerebral Palsy

Precision is paramount in legal arguments. For example, when our Illinois birth injury attorneys are writing a complaint which initiates a lawsuit or making a closing argument in front of a jury, we are very clear about how a certain course of conduct by a medical professional led to a certain injury suffered by a child or mother. These claims are made based on evidence of what happened in the situation and medical knowledge from experts on the consequences of those actions. Living in the legal world of very specific, definitive, and clear arguments sometimes imparts the impression that every medical condition or outcome can be explained in every case.

That is not always true.

Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm appreciates that there is still much that the entire medical community does not know about how certain injuries arise or even what certain injuries are. The medical community has made enormous strides in the last century to identify harms and to prevent them. Patients can rightly expect that those understandings will be applied in their case to prevent harm where possible. Failure to do so is medical malpractice and perhaps necessitates a birth injury lawsuit. However, there remain many medical mysteries than cannot yet be understood.

A story in the Huffington Post this week delves into one of those mysterious cases. Nine-year old Jason Egan suffered from some sort of developmental problem that is baffling researchers and medical experts. At first the child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Like many children with CP, the Jason cannot walk or talk. Considering that cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a range of movement disorders, Jason’s developmental problems at first seemed consistent with a child who had cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition. That means that the problems facing the sufferer will not be worse over time but will instead remain constant over a lifetime.

That is where Jason’s condition differs. The boy’s condition continues to change over time. Brain scans of the child at the time he was six first suggested that something was unique in his case. Amazingly, the doctors discovered that the child’s brain at the time of the scan at six years old was much smaller than similar scans taken on him earlier in his life. The shrinking brain indicated that cerebral palsy was a misdiagnosis. To pinpoint exactly what was going on, doctors conducted tests for various neurological disorders. What they found, essentially, was nothing. The boy did not seem to be suffering from any condition that was known to affect the brain.

The doctor summarized by noting that “there is not one test he hasn’t had done. He doesn’t qualify for cerebral palsy, because the disease is progressing. The bottom line is, I don’t know yet and I hope we will figure out what’s happening to him.”

In a bit of good news, Jason’s latest brain scan shows that the shrinking may have stopped. His brain is the same size now as it was one year ago. While this is a relief for the family, it doesn’t help in figuring out what the problem actually is. Researchers are now looking at the child’s DNA to determine if there are any mutations which might explain what is going on. Depending on what is found, it may ultimately prove incredibly helpful in scientists’ efforts to understand how each gene interacts in the body.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Cerebral Palsy Primer: What It Is & When It Arises

Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed After Child Born with Cerebral Palsy

March 15, 2012

H.R. 5 Vote Next Week May Limit Legal Rights of Families Affected By Birth Injuries

Over the past year the Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm have been following the development of a dangerous piece of legislation known as House Resolution 5 (H.R. 5). The bill is a large one that has various components. Part of the legislation seeks to overturn portions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare). In addition, sections of the measure would mandate tort reform proposals in every state. Those proposed “reform” measures would severely curtail the legal rights of those whose children are harmed at birth because of medical negligence. For that reason, all those who care about fairness and open access to the justice system should take a moment to voice their opposition to this bill.

The American Association for Justice explains that, for a variety of reasons, H.R. 5 has been stalled for over a year. However, that stagnation appears to be changing, and the bill has been fast-tracked. Those familiar with the situation in Washington explain that a vote on the measure in the full House of Representative is expected as early as next week.

Alleged cost savings is the pretense for passage of the bill. However, the most generous estimate on the amount of money that can actually be saved by passing this bill from the Congressional Budget Office suggest that the savings would top off at one half of one percent of national healthcare costs annually. Some lawmakers are actually suggesting that taking away fundamental rights from all ordinary citizens is justified based on that fraction of cost savings.

But it is not even that simple. Rarely factored into the equation is the effect that the changed law will have on patient care and the costs associated with worsened care. The Institute of Medicine has found that preventable medical errors lead to roughly $300 billion in increased healthcare spending annually. That spending does not even account for the hundreds of thousands more who are hurt by medical negligence but survive. Studies have shown that the civil justice system acts as an important accountability tool which influences the total errors committed. If that accountability tool is hampered, the amount of mistakes is likely to increase. This will both make care at all medical facilities worse but also lead to more spending to account for the extra care needed.

The Chicago birth injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti stand firmly against misguided, dangerous measures like those included in H.R. 5. We urge all community members to take a moment to contact their member of Congress to voice their opposition to the bill. Please follow this link to reach out to your representative.

Some may be hesitant to take this step, assuming that their voice won’t make a difference. However, time and again it has been shown that, partisan politics aside, representatives take notice when they receive a deluge of correspondence on a particular piece of legislation. Every voice that is included in the process sends another message to those in a position to protect patient rights. Please don’t delay in doing your part to beat back this dangerous bill.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Impartial Organizers Lining Up Against House Resolution 5

H.R. 5 Medical Malpractice Proposals Shot Down By Committee Testimony

March 14, 2012

Plaintiff Alleges Brain Injury in Newborn Caused by Medical Malpractice

A family recently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against various care providers who, they claim, acted negligently leading to permanent, severe debilitating injuries for the child. A report this weekend in the Morning Sun explains that the lawsuit was filed two years after the birth. The mother in the case noted that she did not have any known complications during her pregnancy. Everything seemed t be going according to plan when she went in at 38 weeks to have the pregnancy induced. The induction was known ahead of time, and so there were no emergency circumstances at the outset.

As in many of these cases, a fetal heart monitor was used during the birth to ensure that the child’s heart rate was at safe levels throughout. Having one of these monitors is one thing but properly using them is another. In the complaint filed by the family’s medical malpractice lawyer that initiated this suit, the family claims that the fetal heart monitor was not analyzed properly in this case. As a result, the child ultimately went more than 40 minutes with a dangerously low heart rate. This meant that the child’s blood was not flowing properly through his body. Poor blood flow to the brain is one of the main causes of brain damage.

When the medical team finally noticed that the child was in distress, they attempted to remove the child from the womb. A vacuum extraction birth was attempted, but it was unsuccessful. A C-section was then performed. The child was in obvious distress as soon as he left the womb. He was ultimately forced to spend twenty three days in a hospital before his condition was stable enough to warrant his release. Though he survived, it was not without long-term consequences. At age one he was diagnosed with a rare form of cerebral palsy. The full extent of the harm caused by the birth injury will not be known until he develops even more.

If your child was injured during birth in our area it is important to seek out the help of an experienced Illinois birth injury lawyer. Unlike many other personal injury cases, there are unique time limit rules that apply to these cases. In typical injury cases, to hold a negligent party accountable, a plaintiff must file suit within two years of the date of the injury. However, that is not necessarily true in the context of birth injuries.

For one thing, there are times when it is unclear if a child has actually been injured at all in the immediate aftermath of a birth. For example, sometimes cerebral palsy is not diagnosed until a child is a few years old. It would be a mistake of justice for families not to be able to hold medical providers accountable for causing the injury because it was not (and should not) have been discovered sooner. Instead, many birth injury cases can be brought, depending on the circumstances many years after the birth—often up to the time that the child turns eighteen years old. That is not to say that it is advisable to wait to seek out legal help in these situations. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers often explain how tracking down medical records, witnesses, and other evidence in the case is made more difficult the older the claim. Yet, the rules do mean that concerns about the length of time after a birth should not necessarily preclude families from exploring their legal options even years later.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Family of Injured Boy Seeks Approval of $30M Award in Birth Injury Lawsuit

New Test to Detect Heart Defect Birth Injuries

March 13, 2012

“Junk Science” Used by Defense in Birth Injury Cases

Virtually all Illinois birth injury claims stems from accusations of medical malpractice on the part of doctors, nurses, and other medical providers during the labor process. When a lawsuit is filed following this malpractice, the central issue in the case is whether or not the medical providers acted according to reasonable medical standards when providing care during the labor. That presents the obvious question: what constitutes reasonable care?

The main way that the question is answered for a jury during a trial is via use of expert witnesses. Jury members are not expected to know based on their own knowledge what should have been done by the medical professionals which might have prevented the injury. Instead, experts who are trained in the area testify based on credible information and scientific theories to explain what the reasonable standards are and how a breach of those standards did or did not play into the cause of the injury. Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm is aware of the crucial role played by these experts.

However, not all experts are created equal.

In order to ensure that juries are not deceived into considering expert opinions which have very little scientific merit, judges are charged by the U.S. Supreme Court with being “gatekeepers” on this issue. In short, judges are only supposed to allow an expert witness to testify if the science on which they are speaking meets certain criteria. The goal is to prevent “junk science” from being introduced and unfairly skewing the jury’s consideration of the issue. According to the rules outlined in the most famous Supreme Court case on this topic (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals), the court is suppose to consider five criteria when deciding whether to let an expert testify regarding a certain theory.

1) Is the theory based on empirical testing that is testable, refutable, and falsifiable?
2) Has the theory be published on frequently and subject to peer review?
3) Is there a known error rate?
4) Is the evaluation process for the theory subject to various standards and controls?
5) How thoroughly has the scientific community accepted or rejected the theory?

For example, in the birth injury context, defense attorneys may try to get an expert to testify based on some alternative theory which might fail to affirmatively meet the basic conditions outlined above. As a recent article from the New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog explained, this is the case in some Erb’s palsy defenses. Erb’s palsy is an injury that is often suffered by children during the birthing process. It arises when a child’s shoulder becomes caught in the mother’s pelvis. If the doctor pulls on the child’s head during this process, the brachial plexus nerve bundle may become damaged. This often leads to nerve problems in the child’s arms. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers have worked with many local families whose children have developed Erb’s palsy as a result of medical malpractice.

In trying to defend lawsuits stemming from Erb’s palsy, some defense lawyers offer a “natural birth theory” to argue that the excessive force may have been caused by the birth itself and not the doctor’s conduct. The problem is that there has essentially been zero empirical studies that suggest that this defense has merit. Instead, only half a dozen doctors have published on the subject—each citing one another in their work. Those same doctors frequently travel across the country to testify about this “alternative” theory that they have worked up.

Recently, for the first time ever, a state trial court and appellate court did not allow the “natural forces” defense to be used at trial for failure to meet the required standards for proper expert testimony. Hopefully more courts across the country follow this lead and demand more of expert testimony from defense witnesses in these cases.

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Medical Malpractice & Birth Injuries

Another Example of Tort Reform Hypocrisy: Rick Santorum

March 12, 2012

New Book Details The Effects of Dealing with A Premature Birth

KERA News shared an interesting story this week summarizing a new book by a father about dealing with his daughter’s extremely premature birth. In the book, the father, who is also an obstetrician and gynecological doctor, shares information on both the medical details of premature birth as well as the many emotions experienced by the involved families. In this way, the book may be enjoyed by many local families who have had a loved one suffer an Illinois birth injury, with the range of mental, physical, emotional, and financial consequences that attach.

The book, titled Fragile Beginning: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU, beings with the author sharing his own story. His wife was just 26 weeks pregnant with the family’s third child when she went into labor. Of course, the family was incredibly worried from the outset, because the labor began a full three months before the mother’s due date. Eventually the girl was born via emergency C-section, and she immediately rushed off to the neonatal unit. The girl weighed just one pound fifteen ounces. Children born early quite often suffer a range of birth injuries, many of which can be life-threatening. In the author’s case, he was fortunate that his daughter survived and did not suffer any permanent life-long cognitive impairments.

She did not go unscathed, however.

The day following her birth the young girl developed severe bleeding on the brain. That sort of injury can often lead to permanent physical and mental issues, including the development of cerebral palsy. Fortunately, in this case the major issues were resolved before they could lead to significant harm. The girl is now ten years old, and she shows no signs of cognitive harm. Her impairments are only minor. She has slight problems with her walking and her right hand has less function than her left. However, all things considered, the family admits that they are quite fortunate.

The doctor summarized his own thoughts about the situation which have likely been shared by many local families dealing with Illinois birth injury victims. He noted about what was going through his family’s mind at the time of the injury, “We knew enough to be terribly worried, but not really enough to understand the nuance of what was to come. And certainly our knowledge didn’t provide us any tools to do anything about it.”

After sharing the doctor’s own story, Fragile Beginnings continues by tracing the history of medical standards, advancements, and improvements as they relate to helping prematurely born infants. As the book notes, we have come a long way in a short time. For example, much attention to proper treatment for premature infants was drawn when President John F. Kennedy’s son, Patrick, was born more than five weeks premature. Patrick died a few days after his death due to a respiratory problem. Today, that problem is routinely treated in virtually all hospitals.

The book author admits that decisions made by doctors, as well as parents, often have significant impacts on the lives of those born prematurely. This is a point our Chicago birth injury lawyers know well, having worked with many families whose loved ones have suffered as a result of negligent conduct by medical personnel.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Premature Infants and Brain Injuries

Toll-Like Receptors Linked to Brain Injuries in Newborns

March 11, 2012

Link Found Between SSRI Use During Pregnancy and Injuries and Defects

Medscape shared the results of a new study on Wednesday that suggests that use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (better known as SSRIs) can increase the risk of a range of child development and birth injury problems. SSRIs are a range of medications that are most often used to treat depression in woman. The research effort was conducted by experts in the Department of Epidemiology and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Erasmus Medical Center. The findings were published in this week’s online edition of Archives of General Psychiatry.

The study itself involved examination of various groups of women, some of whom were depressed and treated with SSRIs. Researchers found that while use of SSRIs seemed to lessen depressive symptoms in the women, it also led to significantly higher risk of fetal development abnormalities—including small head size. In addition, those who received SSRIs during their pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have preterm births.

However, some are questioning the findings and suggest that the abnormal development may be connected to the depression itself and not the SSRI treatment. Instead, many are calling for more research with better controls so that stronger evidence can be obtained which shows that the drug itself leads to the harm. Part of the problem is that it is hard to get sample sizes with depressive participants large enough to be statistically strong. In this latest study, for example, over 91% of the participants actually had no depressive symptoms, and so the examination of information from those who did can be criticized for coming from too small a group.

So what effect does this research (and others like it) have on birth injury lawsuits?

It is too early to tell. As our Chicago birth injury lawyers often share, the law focuses mostly on conduct as opposed to harm. Of course harm to a mother or child must be present in some form for a case to proceed, but the most important aspect of any Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit or product liability lawsuit that might arise in one of these situations is the conduct of those involved. Legal liability would likely not attach if all those involved, from doctors to drug manufacturers, truly had no idea that the prescription of these medications might cause harm. However, it may be true that signs existed or evidence was available which suggested otherwise. If those signs were ignored or not taken as seriously as they reasonably should have been, then the law might hold those negligent parties accountable for their lack of action that led to the drug-related harm.

No matter what, however, if you or a loved one has been hurt in some way and have suspicions about the connection between certain drug use, there is little to lose by seeking out help. A legal professional experienced in these matters can gather information specific to your case and provide more tailored information. If you are in Illinois, our Illinois birth injury attorneys can provide that guidance at no cost. Please contact us to see how we can help.

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Taking Diflucan During Pregnancy Linked to Birth Injuries

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March 10, 2012

Medical Bills Following Birth Injuries Plunge Many Families Into Debt

This week USA Today shared the results of what is being heralded as the largest ever study of medical debt among Americans. The Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm realize the scope of the problem of medical indebtedness, because many of the families with which we work have been rocked with incredibly high medical bills. It is not an exaggeration to say that for many families, paying off these bills often takes a lifetime.

The newly released study on the topic was conducted by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data was culled from surveys completed by at least 52,000 individuals over the course of the first six months of last year. One observer—a researcher on the topic of medical indebtedness for independent policy groups—conceded that this particular effort was likely the largest of its kind. In other words, this data offers the best evidence yet of the true scope of the medical indebtedness problem across the country.

Unfortunately, the research indicates that the problem is serious and not decreasing. It seems that one in five Americans are struggling with this debt. Of that 20%, half of them are actually able to pay anything toward those medical bills. That means that for many families, the lurking indebtedness shows no signs of abating. The problem is truly a constant one that will likely affect these individuals indefinitely. Obviously, it comes as no surprise that low income community members struggle more with these bills than those in higher income brackets. On the whole low income residents are 300% more likely to have difficulty paying these bills.

Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at our firm appreciates what these stark figures mean. Indebtedness of any kind can influence virtually everything about the debtor’s life. Most major decisions are dictated by financial concerns. The neighborhood where one resides, the quality of schools nearby, the access to enrichment programs, and many other factors can be shaped by available funds. In today’s competitive world it is hard enough to get by without debt, but having tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs hanging around one’s neck often makes it impossible to get ahead. Indebtedness of parents obviously affects children, and so the overall cost of this problem should not be underestimated.

Sadly, those families who have suffered a birth injury may be more likely than others to be struggling with medical debt. This is true for two reasons. First, the initial medical costs to help the injured child after the delivery are often quite high. For example, medical bills can reach tens of thousands in a matter of days if intensive care is needed. Beyond those initial medical costs, families whose children suffer birth injuries have a myriad of other incidental costs which must be paid. For example, a child with cerebral palsy is likely to need special equipment as he or she ages to help with basic tasks, special day care services might be needed, and various other costs add up each and every day for these families. It is no wonder than many medical debts cannot be paid down quickly because the day-to-day costs faced by these families are often staggering.

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Understanding Cerebral Palsy

Birth Injuries Often Have Lifelong Consequences

March 9, 2012

International Children with Cerebral Palsy Receiving Surgery That Some Local Residents Cannot Afford

Advances in surgical options for those with certain birth injuries—including cerebral palsy—has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of those living with these disabilities. Blog readers have likely been following along as new research continues to pour out which offers hope to both prevent certain birth injuries as well as to correct problems affecting sufferers after the fact. From stem cell research treatments to new bone and muscle surgeries, our Illinois cerebral palsy attorneys appreciate that there is much to be excited about in this area.

For example, CBS Local reported this week on one boy with cerebral palsy who traveled all the way from Ecuador to have a novel surgery performed to help correct bone problems. The surgery is not available in his home country, but the potential benefits were so important that the family decided to travel several thousand miles to have the operation done here. This is a similar story shared by many foreign visitors who travel here to have still-novel medical procedures performed on injured loved ones.

This particular boy had always had immense trouble walking as a result of bone problems stemming from his cerebral palsy birth injury. His knees were bent inward, making it impossible for him to stand straight up. He was forced to drag his feet as he walked and could not do it without the aid of a walker. The boy’ s doctor noted that he was forced to use four times as much energy as a normal child to walk. To correct the problem, he traveled to the U.S. for corrective surgery that involved repairs on ten different bones. The single, multilevel surgery realigned the bones as well as several joints. In addition, the child’s knees were straightened and his feet were realigned. As a result, the boy is able to walk straight and upright.

Stories like this one are incredibly heartwarming and a testament to the amazing work of so many excellent medical practitioners and researchers in our area. However, it remains true that some who suffer from cerebral palsy and other conditions are not so lucky to be able to have access to the medical procedures and day-to-day resources that might make their lives better. Instead, many are forced to get by on the bare minimum, limited by their access to financial resources that provide the best medical care, equipment, therapy and the like. Each Illinois cerebral palsy attorney at our firm believes this is unacceptable, especially in situations where the underlying medical condition itself was caused by the misconduct of a third party.

When a mother and child do not receive a level of medical care that the law demands at birth, leading to preventable birth injuries, it is clear that the negligent staff must play a role in providing redress and accounting for the error. This usually takes the form of a birth injury lawsuit, where the family is represented by a lawyer who works with the representatives from the hospital to seek accountability and provide redress in the form of financial resources so that the injured child has access all the care needed to account for his or her special needs throughout their lives.

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Understanding Cerebral Palsy

Birth Injuries Often Have Lifelong Consequences

March 8, 2012

Popular Cerebral Palsy Telethon Raises $1.2 Million

HTR News reported earlier this week on a successful telethon to raise money for those with cerebral palsy. The fundraiser was set to support the national advocacy group, Cerebral Palsy, Inc. A two-day television show and drive was conducted over the weekend. The results were quite impressive, with over $1.2 million being raised in just those pair of days. The haul was more than double the amount raised in a similar telethon last year.

According to the story, the organization plans to use the funds to cover operating expenses at a local cerebral palsy center. The center provides a range of services for residents throughout the community—geared toward adults with cerebral palsy and similar special needs. Every year the center reportedly helps over 1,200 families with therapy and outreach programs. Thanking all those who contributed to the effort, the spokeswoman for the facility noted, “Our goal was just to be able to raise the money to continue providing the quality services we provide. We just really can’t express our appreciation enough.”

All told thousands of individual community members phoned in during the telecast to pledge money. The event also included dozens of volunteers who hosted the event and provided entertainment as part of the non-stop two day presentation.

The fact of the matter is that ensuring children with these birth injuries reach their full potential requires considerable resources over the course of a lifetime. Our Illinois cerebral palsy lawyers fully appreciate this challenge. Of course, the efforts of groups like the one described here to help those facing the condition are incredibly important and heartwarming. These efforts truly change lives and their work should be promoted and support. The majority of families who have children with cerebral palsy do not have the resources on their own to provide all of the assistance necessary to ensure that their child has access to the support services they need.

However, in the cases where the cerebral palsy is caused by the misconduct on the part of others—usually negligent medical professionals—it is logical for the wrongdoers to contribute to the costs of supporting the child’s special needs. That is the purpose of each Illinois cerebral palsy lawsuit that we file.

There is tendency to claim that these suits are somehow unfair or a “money-grab.” This view is misguided. In fact, taxpayers as a whole have a lot to gain by ensuring that wrongdoers pay for the consequences of their actions—instead of the public at large. In many instances, when negligent doctors and hospitals are required to support those who are harmed by their unreasonableness, the taxpayers save money that otherwise would have been paid by the public. As a community, we do not let those with special needs languish without care if they are unable to pay for the basic services they need to get by each day. Instead, government funds from various sources are needed to provide basic support. Birth injury lawsuits, like all those seeking hold negligent parties accountable, are premised on the simple idea of responsibility and fairness.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Cerebral Palsy Primer: What It Is & When It Arises

Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed After Child Born with Cerebral Palsy

March 7, 2012

“Chilling” of Birth Injury Victims Grows in Popularity

Every day more and more attention is being brought to a relatively new, but encouraging treatment option to help stymie some of the more damaging birth injuries. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers have discussed this process in previous blog posts. The new technique involves “cooling” the body of an infant who may have been deprived of oxygen in order to limit the damage that the deprivation causes.

As a story this week from The Gazette noted, total body cooling following traumatic births is becoming routine in many areas. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers were fascinated to learn that the science behind the cooling technique was uncovered, in part, by case studies of unique situations where children suffered little harm following accidents that should have been severe. For example, in one case a thirteen month old toddler wandered out of her house in the middle of winter. She eventually fell face down, hit her head hard of the ground and was knocked unconscious. Considering the weather, it’s a miracle that she didn’t freeze to death. When she was found she had no pulse. However, a few hours later the girl was brought back with the only injury being frostbite. This was miraculous, considering she had been without oxygen for a prolonged period of time. The oxygen deprivation, at the very least, would have been expected to leave her with permanent brain damage.

Doctors realized that the cooling she experienced in the snow actually helped to limit damage that she otherwise might have experienced. Case studies like that one coincided with research which had already suggested the hypothermia limited brain damage in animals.

Now those cooling techniques are being used to help our most vulnerable—infants who have been hurt by a birth injury. The basic idea behind the treatment is the lowering of the child’s body temperature by four degrees immediately following birth. This is accomplished by stripping the child out of clothing and having them lie on a mattress filled with ice water. The cooling is usually conducted over three days. Doctors explain that the cooling is best for those with moderate to severe brain injuries at birth. The cooling essentially “buys time” so that the baby’s brain is allowed to heal on its own.

Of course, the use of cooling to save lives and prevent injury is still in its relative infancy. Several different studies are still underway to pinpoint more clearly how and how well the treatment works. However, though research is still underway, the techniques are already in use in many areas and being credited with saving lives and preventing disability.

For example, the Gazette shared the story of a baby born via a planned C-section. The child was born limp and was not breathing. It wasn’t until later that it was discovered that the child had meningitis. However, before even knowing exactly what the cause, the medical care providers acted quickly to being the cooling process. The child was transferred to a different hospital that specialized in the treatment. The baby’s temperature was dropped four degrees, and the child ultimately survived with no apparent long-term complications.

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March 6, 2012

Claims Bill for Medical Malpractice Victim is Passed

The Naples News reported yesterday on the latest news regarding the “claims bill” issue which affects a young boy who suffered permanent injuries at birth as a result of medical malpractice. A jury in a subsequent birth injury lawsuit awarded the boy $30 million for the care he will need for the rest of his life. However, because the negligent hospital was a public one, there was a cap of $200,000 on an award. The child’s only recourse was to try to get a piece of legislation passed by the state House, state Senate, and signed by the Governor.

As it stands right now a bill which would provide half of the jury award ($15 million) was passed handily in the state House. It now moves on to the Senate. It is unclear what the prospects for the bill are in that Chamber. However, it is clear that the boy and his family have faced an uphill battle. The negligent hospital hired several big-time lobbying firms to fight the matter. Beyond that, it is unclear what the Governor’s position on the bill is, as his veto could throw the bill back to the Assembly. Yet, the vote margin in the House was large enough to override a veto. Usually Governors are prone not to veto a bill that they know will be overridden anyway. It will be interesting to see how this matter plays out, as observers note it is the largest claims bill in the state’s history.

Each Illinois birth injury attorney at our firm appreciates that this case highlights the unique issues that can affect lawsuits against public entities. In general, public entities are capable of crafting different rules which apply to how they can be held accountable for their negligent conduct. Sovereign immunity rules allow these entities to limit their liability entirely. In many situations, as in this case illustrates, the state will have caps on the amount that can be recovered by victims following negligence by a public hospital or official. The only alternative for the victim in those cases is to get a specific piece of legislation passed through the state political process and enacted into law.

Beyond limits on damages and immunity entirely, other legal rules may be changed in special ways for public bodies. Most notably, there are often different statute of limitations times and notice requirements when dealing with public entities. If those special rules are not respected, then a plaintiff may lose their right to seek redress and accountability entirely. Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers often explain that this makes it very important for those who believe they (or a loved one) may have fallen victim to medical malpractice to seek out the advice of proper legal counsel as soon as feasible. Often it is not entirely clear if a public body is involved in a suit until the attorney is given all the information and conducts an investigation. Therefore, to ensure that all legal options will remain on the table, there is no substitute for timely, experienced help from a legal professional.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Family of Injured Boy Seeks Approval of $30M Award in Birth Injury Lawsuit

Doctor’s Failure to Treat Jaundice Causes Baby to Suffer Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury

March 5, 2012

Mothers Reminded of Potential Risks of Abdominal Plastic Surgery

A story this week at Inforum provided an interesting discussion on a topic that may be useful for pregnant mothers or those who have just recently given birth. Many mothers who have battled obesity throughout their loves or have had several children may have excessive abdominal skin. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers know that many medical professionals believe that the excessive skin can be a health hazard and mothers may be healthier by having it removed. Carrying the extra tissue can cause strain on the body, even leading to breakdown and tears in the skin.

That is why some medical professionals suggest that patients have the skin removed surgically. The procedure is known as abdominoplasty. It has grown in popularity significantly over the past few years. Since 1997, the total number of procedures performed annually has tripled. Data from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery explains that the rate of increase continues.

Mothers are spurring much of the increase in abdominoplasties, because of the effect that pregnancies (particularly multiple pregnancies) can have on that part of the body. Our Illinois childbirth lawyers understand that a pregnancy stretches the tissues, skin, and muscles in the mother’s abdomen. The total effect on the body in this way depends in large part on the size of the developing child and the amount of weight the mother gains during the pregnancy. Doctors explain that some mothers have the skin shrink back into place, while for others the extra skin remains extended. The purpose of abdominoplasty is to correct the problem by retightening the stomach muscles which are spread during the weight gain of pregnancy.

These procedures can be very helpful for both medical and cosmetic purposes. However, as with all surgeries, it is incredibly important for those considering the procedure to understand the risks involved. Any time that one goes under the knife, the chance for complications exist. That is no different when it comes to abdonimoplasties. These risks make it imperative that families fully think through the necessity of these elective surgeries before deciding what the right decision is in their particular situation.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons works hard to spread accurate information about cosmetic surgery risks. When it comes to abdominoplasties, the group explains that the main risks include infection, improper healing at the incision site, blood pooling, and fluid accumulation. A big part in preventing the complications, say the experts, is maintaining a healthy weight and size in the few months prior to the surgery. In other words, the surgery may not be ideal for those who are still experiencing weight fluctuations. Researchers from the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery suggest a steady weight for at least three months prior to any “body countering” procedure.

Finding the right, certified, skilled doctor capable of performing these procedures safely is absolutely essential. Medical malpractice attorneys at our firm understand that the quality of care provided be different plastic surgeons can vary tremendously. It is always best to have the operation performed by a surgeon who was specifically trained in these operations, instead of those who have switched from a different type of medicine to plastic surgery without as thorough training or experience levels.

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Dramatic Rise in Cesarean Births

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March 4, 2012

Illinois Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Filed After Student Death at School

The Chicago cerebral palsy lawyers at our firm help families with loved ones with CP in a variety of contexts. For one thing, we work with those whose children developed cerebral palsy as a result of inadequate care during their birth by medical professionals. The condition can arise in a wide range of ways—some preventable, some not. However, in many cases things like oxygen deprivation during birth play a key role. That oxygen deprivation can often be stopped if medical providers act quickly in response to certain signs of fetal distress.

Our Illinois cerebral palsy attorneys help families in other ways. For example, we help those who have received inadequate care at public or private institutions where some individuals with conditions like cerebral palsy live. Blog readers, for instance, are likely aware of the poor conditions of some homes in our area where children with developmental disabilities like cerebral palsy live. Over the years many of these children have died in preventable ways because the care they received at these institutions was far from adequate. The law allows family members in these situations to hold the facility accountable for its conduct.

Recently, WSBTV published a story on yet another context where the death of a child with cerebral palsy has legal ramifications. A cerebral palsy lawsuit has been filed by a father who claims that his son with special-needs was killed because of improper restraints used by those at his school. The son was 18-years old at the time of his death. He suffered from muscular dystrophy as well as cerebral palsy and was unable to walk or speak.

The tragedy struck when the teen had an “improvised restraint” placed around his neck by a special-needs teacher while he was in class. The injury attorney hired by the family explained that the teacher “fastened this neck brace not for any medical reason, but to force his neck in a position to look at her.” Unfortunately, the brace actually obstructed the teen’s breathing. The obstruction was such that the child needed to be taken to a hospital on several different occasions when the brace was used. However, regardless, the teacher kept using the brace.

The father claims that he specifically told the teacher to stop using this procedure, because he knew that it was too great a medical risk. According to the suit, however, the brace continued to be used even after the complaints. Last year, following a medical emergency, the child died at home. Now the family is claiming that the damage caused by the improper neck brace contributed to the teen’s death.

This latest suit is another testament to the many ways that special needs students face many extreme challenges, even in places where they are supposed to be safe—like their school. As this case develops it will be important for those involved to gain a very clear grasp of what led to the boy’s death. Even if the immediate medical emergency which caused his passing was not use of the neck brace, there is a chance that the brace weakened the child in ways that made the immediate injury more likely to occur.

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March 3, 2012

Brachial Plexus Injury Primer

It is surprising that one of the most common Illinois birth injuries is also one of the injuries least known to the general public. Brachial plexus injuries affect every two or three births out of a thousand. Our Illinois birth injury attorneys have helped many families whose children have suffered one of these injuries as a result of medical negligence. Considering the number of families with loved ones dealing with a brachial plexus injury, it is important for more awareness to be raised about the condition.

What Is It?

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves the start near the neck and shoulder—we all have them. The nerve bundle originates at the spinal cord and plays a crucial role in controlling movement in all parts of the arms—shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand. When this bundle of nerves is damaged, there can be severe consequences for the use of the arms. Damage often causes the nerve to stop sending signals from the brain which prevents the arm and muscles from working properly. Besides losing the ability to move muscles, the individual also looses feeling in this part of the body.

There are different degrees of severity with brachial plexus injuries. The most damaging injury is one where the nerve is completely cut or snapped. That is not always what happens. In some cases the nerve bundle is merely stretched or torn. The potential for healing and the consequences are much different depending on whether the nerves are cut, torn, or stretched.

What Are The Causes?

Essentially any physical force that applies strong pressure to the nerve bundle can lead to it being damaged. This network of nerves is fragile, and so it does not take all the mush force to lead to harm. This is particularly true of infants who are, of course, still very vulnerable. For example, when the head and neck are forced opposite the shoulder during birth with too much force, a brachial plexus injury might result. When an extraordinary amount of force is applies the nerves can actually be torn out of their roots in the neck. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers have worked with those in our area whose children suffered the damage in just this way.

How Is It Treated?

Treatment for one of these injuries depends essentially on the type of harm caused to the nerve bundle. If the nerves were only stretched, there is a good chance that they will heal completely with time. Therapy is usually provided in these circumstances to help the healing. Beyond that, surgical options exist for more severe injuries. These surgeries can either work to repair damaged nerves or transfer undamaged nerves in the area—using a graft from the patient’s own body. However, in a bit of good news, doctors are now able to use nerves from other sources (including cadavers) to custom fit matches for some patients.

If you or a loved one has suffered one of these injuries at birth it may be because the medical team involved applied more force than necessary during the delivery. Please get in touch with our Illinois birth injury lawyers to share your story and learn how we might be able to help.

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March 2, 2012

Fetal Hypoxia During Pregnancy May “Program” Children for Heart Disease

Hypoxia is a medical term that refers to deprivation of oxygen, and it often comes into play in birth injuries. When a child is in fetal distress and that distress is not addressed in a timely fashion by medical caregivers, then serious harm can result. For example, many Illinois cerebral palsy cases involve children who have had oxygen deprived to their brain during birth. There are many far reaching consequences of this deprivation which essentially can affect all areas of the victim’s life.

However, scientists have recently uncovered yet another complication that may face victims, something that at first does seem to be connected to fetal oxygen deprivation: heart disease. As reported earlier this month in Science Mag, a new study into the overall causes of heart disease has found that one of those could include low oxygen levels in the womb. Of course this is a surprising finding, considering that most focus on heart disease involves conduct later in life regarding diet, exercise, smoking, and the like.

The story explains that when fetal hypoxia is prolonged, this has an effect on the development of the vessels within the embryo’s heart. In these situations the heart walls and aorta walls grow thicker. This in turn makes it harder for blood vessels to respond quickly which presents a challenge for proper blood flow.

Our Illinois birth injury attorneys appreciate that many questions still remain regarding exactly how this process occurs. One group of physiologists suggested that the lack of oxygen causes stress that leads to an overload of highly reactive molecules known as free radicals. They recently tested this hypothesis with four groups of pregnant rats with two groups facing hypoxia and two groups having normal pregnancies. Also two sets of groups were given vitamin C water to mimic antioxidant effects. The effects of each of these protocols what then examined in the pups that were born.

Examination of the pups showed clear differences between each group. In general, those pups without vitamin C and with induced hypoxia had hearts that were pumping considerably harder and faster at four months old compared with those in the other groups. These pups also showed signs of obstruction in the arteries—as sign of developing cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, these problems were not seen in each of the three other groups, including those who have induced hypoxia but were given vitamin C water. This suggests that the vitamin supplements may play a crucial role in helping alleviate some of these problems.

Summarizing these latest findings, the lead researcher explained, “Although a link between adverse conditions during pregnancy and cardiovascular disease in later life has been established for many years, what explains this link had remained an enigma.”

As with all research that may one day have implications for ensuring properly development and birth, the first step in creating drugs or medical care protocols to help those involved is figuring out how the problem arises in the first place. This study does that. The doctor who is known as the “father” of the fetal development field in this area has called this latest study fascinating. He notes that “these are very exciting findings that take us several steps forward. […] Now that we understand the mechanism, we are much closer to being able to intervene.”

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March 1, 2012

Teen with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Shows Diversity of the Medical Condition

Each Illinois cerebral palsy lawyer at our firm remains amazed at the tremendous accomplishments that those suffering from this birth injury attain in their lives, despite the extra challenges that they face. From running businesses and playing sports to making others laugh and providing listening ears, those with cerebral palsy continue to enrich the lives of those around them. However, that is not to say that they do not face extra hurdles. As we repeatedly explain, these community members ability to maximize their quality of life is heavily dependent on having access to available resources to deal with the challenges of the condition. When local residents file an Illinois birth injury lawsuit on behalf of their loved one who developed cerebral palsy as a result of their medical caregiver’s negligence, they simply want to ensure that their loved one has the chance to reach their potential.

Max Preps recently shared the heartwarming story of one young man with cerebral palsy who has used his perseverance and love of basketball to inspire all those in his small community. The fifteen-year old was recently profiled for his positive outlook. The young man has ataxic cerebral palsy, which is the least common form of the condition. Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by low muscle tone and difficulty with movements. In addition, it affects ones sense of balance and depth perception. Of course these mobility challenges would seem to offer extra challenges when engaged in activities like playing basketball. However, this young man does not allow it to interfere with his focus of doing his best and being part of the team. The young man played in nineteen of the teams twenty five games. In fact, he was able to score six three point shots throughout the season, including one in the team’s only playoff game.

The teen was surprised when he found out that he could join the basketball team without any tryouts. Because he lives in a small town with only 800 people (and school with only 67 students), anyone who wants is able to join the squad. The team may not win many games—only one out of the twenty five this season—but for this teen it is the experience that matters. He reminds all those around him that it is a gift just to be able to be on the court at all.

His mother explains that he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy not long after his first birthday. His first doctor said that he would probably never walk or talk. However, his mother decided to get a second opinion, and the boy has defied the odds. In fact, he does not even walk with the limp that is usually characteristic of cerebral palsy. He explains, “I sway my head a little bit, but other than that I handle my CP pretty well.” In addition, his voice is clear without a noticeable issue. The teen hopes to use that voice one day for sports announcing. He is now making plans to attend college and hopes to study some sort of communications to get involved with broadcasting.

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