Infant Wrongful Death and its Tragic Consequences, According to Our Oregon Infant Wrongful Death Attorney
Giving birth to a child is supposed to be a celebration of life. A mother holds her newborn close and the infant experiences his or her first real touch and bonding experience. No one goes into pregnancy believing it will be the end, not the beginning. Although this seemingly alternative reality is in fact rare, it does happen: the infant or mother or both pass during pregnancy; during childbirth; or soon after childbirth. There are a number of reasons why this horrific event could happen. From infant asphyxiation to placenta abruption, there are very legitimate reasons as to why a mother should be concerned during pregnancy, during childbirth, and after childbirth. It is well worth it to become educated beforehand to help prevent these tragic circumstances from occurring as much as possible.
What is not completely in a mother’s hand is the actions of others, including her medical care providers, from doctor to hospital staff. This is where the cause of action of infant wrongful death comes in. Infant wrongful death is when the death of a baby, mother, or both, could have been prevented but for a medical provider’s negligence. Contact our Oregon infant wrongful death attorney today if you believe you have an infant wrongful death claim.
What is Infant Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death suit is a civil action against another person who may be liable for a death. A negligent act that caused the death may be grounds for a wrongful death action as well. An easier way to describe it may be, if what caused the death was preventable, it was likely wrongful. Wrongful death cases with respect to deaths resulting from birth injuries can be for either the mother, infant, or both the mother and infant. Infant wrongful death can be found to be any degree of death, including homicide.
Many parties can be held liable for wrongful death. This includes: doctors, such as pediatricians and gynecologists, nurses, medical assistants, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, or even a secretary who incorrectly entered in important data. Essentially, anyone who partook in the act that caused the wrongful death. Even if the medical provider or providers who caused the wrongful death did so accidentally, or out of inexperience or nervousness, it can still be negligence.
Infant wrongful death in comparison to general wrongful death simply means that the death happened to the mother, baby, or both the mother and baby. Some states recognize infant wrongful death, and other states do not. Oregon recognizes it, as long as the birth associated with the wrongful death did not occur prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Examples of Wrongful Death Birth Injuries
- Stillbirth—stillbirth is when a baby passes before or during delivery. Some states have eradicated the possibility of stillbirth liability. In Oregon, though, stillbirth may present a viable claim if the birth did not take place prior to 24 weeks. That does not just apply to stillbirth matters—no infant wrongful death claim is possible prior to 24 weeks.
There are numerous reasons why a parent can file a stillbirth wrongful death claim. For example, if there was fetal distress and it was not properly attended to and cared for. Additionally, if the premises were not clean or safe and an infection developed for the mother and baby, that can lead to sepsis, for example. Sepsis is an infection throughout the entire body which is difficult to get under control. Another example is mismanagement of the mother’s diabetes: babies grow more slowly in mothers with diabetes because there is poor circulation, high blood pressure, and damaged blood vessels.
Finally, the failure to perform a C-Section at the correct time can lead to a stillbirth too.
- C-Sections—although rare, a mother and baby both run the risk of death when a C-Section is performed improperly. Even though C-Sections are usually performed to decrease risks to the mother and baby, it carries its own cons, such as internal bleeding (mother), blood clots (mother), forceps misuse, and traumatic brain injuries, all which can lead to death.
- Hypoxia—also known as oxygen deprivation, can occur for a number of reasons, often because of a difficult labor, an umbilical cord wrapped around the infant’s neck, or placenta complications. Hypoxia, which can also commonly lead to cerebral palsy, is essentially when the infant is not getting enough oxygen. Hypoxia and its associated oxygen deprivation is especially fatal if the infant is still in the mother’s womb. Doctors and related staff members need to be attending to vital signs constantly and take swift action at the earliest sign of any oxygen deprivation.
Another instance where an infant may be deprived of oxygen is if the infant gets lodged in the mother’s pelvic area. Doctors and related staff members during a particular delivery are required to remove the infant safely, without force, such as with forceps misuse.
- TBI—difficult labor and deliveries can cause the infant distress. The infant may get stuck in the birth canal, possibly requiring the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor. If either are used too aggressively or incorrectly, or negligently, then the infant may have a laceration on his or her head. An infant’s head is very malleable and a nick to their head is much more severe than it would be to an adult’s head. A nick to an infant’s head can cause TBI. An inexperienced, hasty, or anxious doctor utilizing forceps or vacuum extractors can cause this sort of TBI in an infant, unfortunately, which can prove fatal.
- Jaundice—jaundice itself will not necessarily lead to death—on the contrary, most times it resolves itself. Yet, if jaundice is not assessed properly in the hospital and the infant is released, it could very well prove fatal later on. If jaundice that requires treatment, not the type that will resolve on its own, is left untreated, it could lead to kernicterus. Medical providers must make that call while the mother and infant are in the hospital, before they leave the hospital and go home. Kernicterus is severe, untreated jaundice. However, if the untreated jaundice is what led to the wrongful death, whomever failed to properly address and treat the jaundice may be liable.
- Kernicterus—as discussed above, kernicterus is a severe, untreated form of jaundice. There are several procedures that can be done to lessen the damage that kernicterus does to a certain point, but there is no cure. Most often, kernicterus leads to long-term brain damage and hearing loss, but death can also result if it is so severe and left seriously untreated. Your doctor and affiliated medical staff should be aware of what type of jaundice needs to be promptly treated, because otherwise, if not, it can develop into kernicterus.
- Placental abruption—this occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. The placenta is meant to attach to the wall and supplies the infant with nutrients and oxygen. In other words, the infant is blocked from those nutrients and oxygen, and further, the mother experiences heavy bleeding. If this is left untreated, both the mother and baby are at serious risk.
- Uterine rupture—can occur during vaginal birth, where a mother’s uterus tears and the infant slips into the mother’s abdomen. This can lead to suffocation of the infant and severe bleeding for the mother. Uterine rupture is more likely to happen to women who have had surgery to their wombs before, which includes C-Sections. Your medical provider should inquire about previous C-Sections, if applicable, and proceed accordingly, to prevent uterine rupture. Inquiring about past medical history is key for all pregnancies and deliveries.
- Placenta previa—a placenta forms during pregnancy to provide your infant with oxygen and nutrition and remove waste. Placenta previa happens when the placenta partially or completely covers the mother’s cervix, which is the outlet for the uterus. This can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. If you report severe bleeding to your doctor or medical provider during pregnancy, placenta previa may need to be considered as the root cause. This is important, because if it is placenta previa, certain activities such as sex and exercising need to be avoided. Left uncared for, placenta previa can be deadly to both the mother and infant.
- Medication mismanagement—there can be many medications involved with the birth of an infant, from conception to post-delivery. Many times, women do not elect to have an epidural, a mix of pain medication to alleviate the labor pain, prior to the delivery. However, often times the mother decides at the last minute to receive the epidural. Other pain medications can be involved during pregnancy and labor as well. Also, many mothers may be on certain prescriptions during pregnancy, such as antidepressants and others, which could affect the development of their baby. It is crucial that a doctor pay attention to every detail of this so the mother is taking what she can take, and not drugs that are off limits, which could harm both the mother and baby.
What You Can Do
It is vital to document and keep everything that relates to your pregnancy, delivery, post-delivery, and the wrongful death. For example, if there is an autopsy following a newborn’s passing, that is crucial to prove why the death, such as a stillbirth, occurred. As painful as it may be, do not get rid of any evidence that can assist in getting you a favorable legal outcome. If you or a loved one have experienced an infant wrongful death in the family, contact our Oregon infant wrongful death attorney to make sure you receive what you deserve.
Ask Our Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Help After the Wrongful Death of Your Child
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form. We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.
Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton, Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles, St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.
We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.