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This past Tuesday night in Chicago, blogger and author Glennon Doyle (formerly Glennon Doyle Melton) joined forces with a panel of other equally insightful and inspiring women to talk about finding your own self worth and harnessing that power to live your best life. We were lucky enough to be in the audience and hear the many roles these women have taken on in their lives: daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, career women, and caregivers. In her New York Times bestselling book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle wrote “My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Women ARE warriors. For many women, our role as a nurturer and caregiver spans the full cycle of life, from the births of our children all the way to caring for our aging parents. Caring for another person is unlike any other job in the world. The weight of responsibility, the emotional highs and lows, the physical stress and exhaustion, and the strain on other relationships that being a caregiver imposes on a woman is demanding and isolating. Adding in maintaining a marriage or partnership, looking after our own health, and holding down a job while attempting to care for another human life, whether infant or elder, is more than just a feat. It’s superhuman.


Women as Caregivers for Aging Parents

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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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A birth injury is devastating to families and may require extensive and expensive medical treatment, rehabilitation, and care. When a birth injury is the result of medical malpractice it is caused by negligence on the part of the doctor or medical staff. Generally speaking, there are 3 main possible causes of malpractice injuries to newborns. Negligence may occur in the mistreatment of high-risk pregnancy, in the failure to properly treat fetal distress, or in the improper handling of an assisted birth.

Negligence during Pregnancy Treatment

Doctors must perform medical examinations, evaluations, and tests of the mother and fetus during the pregnancy. The failure to diagnose a significant medical condition that could be cause for complications or problems is likely considered medical malpractice. Pre-eclampsia is one of several common pregnancy complications that are treatable when diagnosed early and managed properly. If a mother’s physical condition is not adequately diagnosed and treated, the baby may suffer harm.

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Parents joyfully await the birth of their baby, planning for their new family addition. Unfortunately, there are some babies who are injured during the labor or delivery process. These injuries may range from minor to severe or even life-threatening. Mistakes made by doctors during pregnancy or labor could be to blame for many of these incidents. Some babies are at higher risk for the possibility of birth injuries than others.

Birth Injury Risks

There are a number of conditions that may increase the risk for a birth injury to occur. Some of the most common risks for birth injuries include:

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The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion. Sometimes, however, the celebration is marred when the infant sustains a serious birth injury. In one recent case, a mother filed a lawsuit in Cook County against a doctor and medical practice alleging neglect led to her son’s birth injury. According to the lawsuit, the doctor failed to provide proper care during labor and delivery which resulted in a brain injury. The woman is requesting a jury trial and damages of more than $50,000.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, HIE, is a severe brain injury that can occur to newborns during labor or delivery. HIE limits the flow of oxygen to the brain resulting in a reduction of brain function and permanent disability. The extent of the damage depends on the length of time the infant was without oxygen. Almost one fourth of neonatal deaths are attributed to HIE.

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The birth of a child is one of the happiest days in the lives of parents. However, for some, the joy can be replaced by sadness and distress if the infant suffers a medical problem. Many parents wonder whether an injury was caused by a mistake made by the doctor or whether the injury was not preventable. There are distinctions between a birth defect and a birth injury.

Birth Defects

Birth defects are generally medical issues that were present in the womb and were not a result of mistakes made during labor or delivery. Some of the most common birth defects include: