Birth trauma claims are some of the hardest fought and most complex medical negligence cases for plaintiffs to win. The stakes are high, and a plaintiff needs the best legal representation by the most skilled lawyer with significant experience in birth trauma claims.
One situation that recurs is where there has been a protracted and difficult birth caused by a slow descent of a baby’s head, and the baby has sustained fetal hypoxia (shortage of oxygen leading to cerebral encephalopathy). Fetal hypoxia is a pathological condition of the brain which can be caused by lack of oxygen and which can lead to death or conditions such as cerebral palsy.
In assessing the viability of a birth trauma case associated with hypoxic encephalopathy, an astute lawyer will consider the key indicators for early intervention or urgent delivery such as an abnormal fetal heart rate, meconium staining or other signs of fetal distress. Another indicator which can be associated with a newborn baby in difficulties is an excessive level of bilirubin (jaundice) which, if not treated in a timely way, can also lead to cerebral palsy or other forms of developmental delay.
Kernicterus (a condition associated with high levels of bilirubin in the blood which can lead to bilirubin encephalopathy) is commonly implicated.
A lawyer with appropriate expertise in the conduct of these sort of case will carefully read the clinical records, i.e. both maternal notes and neonatal notes, for any indication of sinister fetal signs which may have been missed or in respect of which there may have been diagnostic delay leading to delay in delivery and in some cases where the baby has already been delivered, delay in the neonatal period in diagnosis and treatment.
Once all the relevant clinical records have been obtained and read, if there is likely to be a case on the notes, then the next step is to obtain medical expert opinion from appropriate subspecialists. The choice of appropriate specialists for expert opinion and the formulation of observations and the brief to an expert is one of the most critical aspects of the early preparation of the case.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended only to provide a summary and general overview of matters of interest. It does not constitute medical or legal advice and should not be relied on as such.