What Is Medical Malpractice?

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What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is any negligent act or omission of proper treatment performed by a healthcare professional that causes harm to a patient. Whether it is a misdiagnosis, hospital or medical error, medical malpractice can be committed by any party in the medical field, even your doctor. In most cases, patients are entirely unaware that medical malpractice occurred and are never informed of negligence.

Regardless of your relationship and experience with your doctor or hospital staff, it’s important to be aware of possible signs indicating medical mistakes. If you feel uneasy about your birthing process, or feel unsure your doctor/nurse made the right call, medical negligence may have been at play.

Medical Mistakes and Birth Injuries That Can Cause Cerebral Palsy

  • Failure to diagnose and respond to a baby’s airway obstructions
  • Mismanagement of labor and delivery
  • Waiting too long to perform a C-Section
  • Administering too much Pitocin
  • Untreated jaundice and kernicterus
  • Failure to respond to signs and symptoms of a uterine rupture
  • Misreading of the fetal monitor
  • Failure to respond to signs of a placental abruption
  • Failure to detect a severe brain defect on prenatal ultrasound film
  • Failure to respond to severe dehydration in a newborn
  • Failure to perform a timely delivery
  • Failure to perform adequate resuscitation after delivery

Symptoms of Brain Damage and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is often caused by brain damage that results from oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery. Depending on the severity of the brain damage, a baby with cerebral palsy may have a mild case with very few symptoms or a severe case in which one or more debilitating symptoms is present. Detecting cerebral palsy in an infant can be complicated, because while some symptoms may be immediately obvious soon after birth, others might not surface right away.

Some of the earliest signs of CP include a baby’s head lolling back or to the side, a stiffness or floppiness in the infant, or legs that cross each other in scissoring movements. There are some more severe symptoms that may indicate brain damage, including:

  • Stiffness, jerky, or exaggerated movements
  • Trouble with balance and coordination
  • Failure to meet normal developmental milestones like crawling, walking, or talking
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Seizure disorder
  • Inability to self-feed

Doctor or Hospital Negligence

Cerebral palsy develops during birth when a newborn receives an insufficient amount of oxygen, causing neurological harm. This brain damage can be caused by medical errors or neglect that occurred during pregnancy, delivery or birth—which may be medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice is what happens when a physician or hospital fails to meet an accepted level of quality and expertise to patients, also known as the “standard of care.” A medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed against an individual doctor or even against the hospital as a whole.

A failure to meet the standard of care simply means what the medical community deems “improper medical care,” which may include:

  • Failure to detect changes in fetal heart rate monitoring
  • Improper use of delivery tools, such as forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Failure to administer treatment in a timely manner, including emergency C-section, necessary medication, or resuscitation of a compromised baby
  • Failure to detect and/or properly treat infections
  • Neglecting to address conditions that could result in danger to a newborn, including:
    • Placenta previa or abruption, or a uterine complication
    • Issues with the umbilical cord, such as tangling or wrapping around the baby, which could cause asphyxiation
  • Failure to notice signs of fetal distress that required an emergency Cesarean section
  • Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord

How Can Medical Malpractice Be Proven?

Nothing is as heartbreaking as an injured newborn baby. When an infant experiences brain trauma during birth, their life may be permanently affected before they’ve even had the chance to take their first breath.

If your newborn has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, medical malpractice during birth may have been the cause. And in order to provide the best possible future for your child, you will need to file a lawsuit seeking the compensation your family deserves.

But medical malpractice lawsuits tend to be very complex, especially when it comes to proving medical negligence against a doctor or hospital. That’s when it becomes critical to have the help of an experienced birth injury attorney at your side. When you partner with the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, you can feel confident that your case is being evaluated by a team with a proven track record of winning cases for other birth injury victims.


Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

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