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10 years ago this January, twin Sarah Butler was born at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ontario to Jaye Butler. Her twin brother was delivered healthy and free of complications several minutes prior. To encourage speedy delivery of Sarah, nurses at the hospital stripped Jaye Butler’s membranes, causing the amniotic fluid to drain out so rapidly that Sarah was left weighing down on her own umbilical cord. The pressure on her cord caused her to lose oxygen to her brain and develop cerebral palsy. The hospital records were falsified to read that her mother’s amniotic sac had spontaneously ruptured and that Sarah was delivered via C-Section shortly thereafter.

A Coverup, The Truth, And More Denials

The Butlers were aware that something just didn’t add up. The year their twins were born, the family pressed the hospital on the circumstances surrounding Sarah’s birth injury. According to the family, the hospital admitted that nurses had pushed Sarah’s birth along by stripping Jaye’s membranes. When the family decided to file a lawsuit, the hospital reverted back to the false report they had on file and claimed that Jaye’s membranes ruptured on their own. The hospital maintained that its staff had acted according to the standard of care and that Sarah was in distress, causing an emergency C-Section. In reality, the hospital was forced to deliver Sarah via Caesarean because she was quickly losing oxygen due to compression of her umbilical cord.

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The Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School shared a strongly worded letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking out against H.R. 1215. The letter, written on behalf of 80 major public interest organizations, highlights the damages that could result from passing H.R. 1215, the so-called Protecting Access to Care Act. Among the most notable passages is this:

“Even if H.R. 1215 applied only to doctors and hospitals, recent studies clearly establish that its provisions would lead to more deaths and injuries, and increased health care costs due to a “broad relaxation of care.” Add to this nursing home and pharmaceutical industry liability limitations, significantly weakening incentives for these industries to act safely, and untold numbers of additional death, injuries and costs are inevitable, and unacceptable.

The latest statistics show that medical errors, most of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in America. This intolerable situation is perhaps all the more shocking because we already know about how to fix much of this problem. Congress should focus on improving patient safety and reducing deaths and injuries, not insulating negligent providers from accountability, harming patients and saddling taxpayers with the cost, as H.R. 1215 would do.”

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After a couple of false starts, H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act is going to the House floor this week.  This massive medical malpractice bill also applies to nursing home and drug and device cases.  The bill caps non-economic damages at $250,000, eliminates joint liability for economic and non-economic loss, caps attorney fees, has a restrictive statute of limitations and says that a doctor and a pharmaceutical company cannot be named in the same lawsuit.

This means, among many other things, that finding an attorney to handle a birth injury case will be more challenging and that financial compensation for injuries that are hard to quantify (such as pain and suffering) cannot surpass $250,000. 

The bill will not get better during floor debate.  The only amendments that will be allowed are amendments that make the bill worse for patients.  The debate on this bill will begin on Tuesday with vote on final passage scheduled for Wednesday. 

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After a healthy pregnancy, the parents of baby Earl Reese-Thornton, Jr. expected to leave North Shore Medical Center in Miami, Florida after the delivery of a healthy baby boy in December 2013. Instead they are facing the heartbreaking reality that all of their lives have been forever changed by a doctor’s incompetence during delivery. During the 90 minutes before Earl was finally born, Dr. Ata Atogho forced a vaginal delivery by administering pitocin (a labor inducing drug), despite the fact that his mother’s stalled labor was causing the baby distress and called for an emergency C-Section. Instead, Dr. Atogho left Earl’s mother, Marla Dixon, laboring while he delivered another baby and carried on a phone call with his investment advisor. When Earl was finally born, it was clear he had suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen and required resuscitation.

Falsifying Documents and Government Responsibility

Dr. Atogho documented in Ms. Dixon’s chart that he offered her a C-Section and that she refused. Ms. Dixon stated that Dr. Atogho had never mentioned the possibility of a C-Section and that she had even asked for one and was denied, a story which the labor and delivery nurse at Ms. Dixon’s beside corroborated.

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Kaiser Permanente has been in the news before for groundbreaking findings in the field of Autism research. In recent years, they’ve seemed to focus on causation for Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD. In the recent past, they’ve made headlines for studies showing that maternal hospital acquired infections can increase autism risk, that younger siblings of children with an ASD diagnosis are more likely to also have the condition, and that mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to have a child with ASD. Their latest finding, released in January, has revealed a strong relationship between pregnancy and labor complications and an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The study was performed through analysis of records of 594,638 children that were born between 1991-2009 at a Kaiser Permanente hospital. Of the nearly 600,000 records examined, 37% of the children were born to mothers who experienced a complication at some point during pregnancy or labor itself. The study showed that children born to mothers who had labor complications had a 10% increased risk of developing an ASD.  The real finding lies in this: Of the children who were born to mothers who faced a pregnancy complication, the risk of developing ASD increased another 12%, or a 22% overall higher risk. If a child was exposed to complications during both pregnancy and labor, it jumped to a 44% increased risk.

What Was Considered a Pregnancy or Labor Complication?

The study authors noted that preeclampsia (primarily presents itself by elevated maternal blood pressure either during pregnancy and/or at the time of labor) and asphyxia (loss of fetal oxygen) were two birth complications that showed the strongest connection to an increased risk of ASD development in children. Other complications said to have a connection during pregnancy and labor were the position of the baby (breech), placental separation, a prolapsed/exposed umbilical /’cord and something known as fetal dystocia (larger baby or baby in an irregular position that causes difficult delivery).

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In January, researchers from the Université de Montréal released their findings from a study on the connection between antidepressant use in pregnancy and the risk of birth defects. The study examined 18,487 pregnant women with a diagnosis of depression, taken from a database of 289,688 recorded pregnancies between the years 1998 to 2009. 20% of the 18,487 women who identified themselves as depressed took antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy. The finding? Women who took antidepressants have an increased risk of delivering a baby with a birth defect.

The study found that use of antidepressants during the first trimester increases the risk of birth defects from 3 to 5% in women who did not take the drugs, to 6 to 10%. The study also examined the types of defects associated with specific antidepressants. The study found that Celexa was associated with a higher risk of major defects and Paxil with heart defects.

Medication Safety Guidelines During Pregnancy

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Many women are provided with various medications designed to help induce labor. These drugs may contribute to injuries to the baby during birth. Problems may occur both in the mother and infant that could be serious or even dangerous. Long-term health issues could occur due to mistakes made during labor or delivery.

Reasons for Inducing Labor

There are a number of reasons why a doctor may want to induce labor. When the baby is overdue, the doctor may induce labor so the baby does not suffer distress or become too large. Most often, labor inducing drugs are provided when the mother’s labor is stalled. This can happen, for example, after being given an epidural. Epidurals or other pain-relieving medications can sometimes slow labor. Then, labor inducing drugs are necessary to avoid distress to the mother or baby.

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Parents expect that their baby will be born healthy. While that happens in most situations, unfortunately, some babies are injured during birth. When this happens, parents, and other family members, are probably devastated. Sadly, many of these injuries could have been prevented had the medical team had not been negligent. When the injuries are serious, they may require quite a bit of ongoing medical treatment, and, in some cases, lifelong care. Parents may be entitled to compensation for the injuries and damages caused by the doctor.

Birth Injury Cases

If the doctor, nurse, or other member of the medical profession was negligent, they should be held responsible for the injuries. Medical negligence usually falls under the general category of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor does something, or fails to do something, that he knows could be harmful to the patient. Birth injuries are often caused by a mistake the doctor makes during labor or delivery of the infant.  

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The birth of your baby is one of the happiest days of your life. That is, unless your baby suffers a birth injury. Although they happen infrequently, birth injuries are often caused by the negligent care of a doctor or medical team. The mother of a baby injured at birth has filed a lawsuit against the doctor and hospital, claiming her daughter’s injury was due to improper medical care. The lawsuit names Roseland Community Hospital, and a doctor, and is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.

Hypoxia in Newborns

Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen to the brain. In newborns, it is usually the result of aspiration that takes place in utero. This can happen with a difficult or prolonged birth. When the baby suffers reduced oxygen intake for longer than a few minutes, brain damage may occur. The infant may suffer from various types of brain injuries including the possibility of cerebral palsy.

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The birth of a baby should be a happy time for families. Sometimes, unfortunately a birth injury may occur that causes serious harm to the baby during labor or delivery. Of the various types of injuries, brain trauma is one of the most severe, and can be disabling. Cerebral palsy may sometimes be the result of a mistake or problem that causes a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain. This lack of oxygen can cause cerebral palsy or other mental disabilities. Parents of infants who suffered a lack of oxygen are naturally concerned about the extent of the injuries sustained. There are some tests that should be done to determine cerebral palsy.

Observation of Behaviors

One of the first signs of possible problems can be detected by observing the behavior of the infant. A baby that suffers a seizure should certainly be examined and diagnosed for the possibility of cerebral palsy or another serious problem. However, there are often small behaviors that could indicate cerebral palsy. For example, parents should note the frequent occurrence of involuntary movements of the limbs. Drooping or limpness of a limb or part of the body could also be cause for concern.