Medical malpractice can lead to serious injuries and, in some instances, victims can die at the hands of a negligent doctor or surgeon. But when medical malpractice involves children, it is even more devastating, because they are among the most vulnerable when it comes to the health care system.
According to a recent survey, 20 percent of pediatricians will face a medical malpractice claim at least once in their career, and ten percent of pediatricians in residency will face a malpractice claim.
In fact, pediatricians rank fourth among all physician specialties when it comes to the average settlement amount resulting from a malpractice claim. This makes it clear that medical malpractice claims related to children are an issue that should worry parents and anyone else who has custody or guardianship over children.
There are some common malpractice claims related to children that are important to understand, so that parents whose kids are undergoing medical issues can be aware of some of the things that could go wrong in the treatment of their loved ones.
Childbirth Injuries Are a Common Type of Medical Malpractice
In theory, there are many things that can go awry during childbirth, which is why delivery doctors do their utmost to ensure the safety of both the mother and the newborn.
But, despite that level of careful preparation, childbirth injuries occur, and they can include:
- Fractures – the bones of a newborn are very fragile, so any wrong move during delivery can cause a fracture.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – in some instances, newborns can suffer spinal cord injuries as they are being pulled out of the womb.
- Brain Damage – there have been cases in which an umbilical cord has wrapped around a baby’s throat, preventing the newborn from breathing. Prolonged loss of breath during birth can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
Surgical errors are another type of medical malpractice claim involving children.
In many instances, this is related to a high-risk surgery that often leads to complications that can injure a child and affect them for a long time.
Some common types of surgical errors that can cause serious injuries to children include:
- Wrong Area Incision – surgeons may open an incision in the wrong area of a child’s body, causing complications and injuries.
- Wrong Site Surgery – although it isn’t as common with children, wrong site surgery occurs when a surgeon operates on the wrong area of a patient’s body, or operates on the wrong organ.
- Leaving Surgical Instruments In the Body – surgeons may also harm children by failing to remove surgical instruments and surgical tools from inside that child’s body after the surgery is complete. Any foreign object left inside a patient’s body can cause internal bleeding.
- Anesthesia Errors – anesthesia is always a concern during surgery, and too much or too little anesthesia administered during a procedure can cause a child too feel excruciating pain, or cause a child to fall into a coma.
- Nerve Injuries – surgery on certain organs or certain parts of the body can be fraught with complications due to the abundance of nerves in that area. If a surgeon accidentally severs or damages a vital nerve, it can cause serious and permanent injuries to a child.
It’s important to remember that children are more vulnerable than adults to these types of surgical errors, because their bodies are not fully developed.
Medical Diagnosis Errors
The most common medical diagnosis error involving children is the failure of pediatricians to correctly identify the symptoms of meningitis.
Although meningitis is a serious disease, early detection allows doctors to provide successful treatment.
But meningitis that is misdiagnosed can lead to inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities, which are permanent injuries that will adversely affect a child’s future
The reason that pediatricians so often misdiagnose meningitis is that the disease’s symptoms – such as fever, vomiting, and muscle pain, headache and exhaustion – are similar to symptoms of a normal flu.
There are some differences, however, because meningitis also causes rashes, a stiff neck, convulsions and seizures, and drowsiness. But because all of these symptoms may not appear at the outset of meningitis, the disease is easy to misdiagnose as the flu.
Doctors that prescribe the wrong medication, the wrong dosage or fail to account for a child’s allergies when taking a medication can cause that child to suffer serious adverse reactions to a drug that can be life-threatening.
Medication errors are especially dangerous with newborns and toddlers, because they have not yet developed the immune system that can help fight off the adverse health effects that the wrong medication can cause within their bodies.
What You Can Do To Prevent Medical Malpractice Involving Children
Parents and caretakers of children can help prevent medical malpractice involving children by taking certain steps, including:
- To Prevent Medication Errors – provide pediatricians with all known allergies your child may have, and ask the pediatrician if the medication prescribed has any adverse interactions with other drugs your child may be taking. Also, doublecheck the dosage and the side effects of each drug.
- To Prevent Misdiagnosis – ask pediatricians to run tests for illnesses or diseases that mimic what the pediatrician has diagnosed, just to rule out those ailments.
- To Prevent Surgical Errors – on the day of the procedure, go over the exact nature of the surgery, and ensure that you and your surgeon are on the same page.
Legal Help With Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice claims are often emotional cases, and that is especially true when children are involved. The idea that the doctors we entrust with healing us can behave negligently or with carelessness violates the basic belief many have in the health care system. These are sensitive and complex cases, best handled by an experienced personal injury firm, such as the team at Miller Kory Rowe LLP. Please call us at (602) 461-8640 for a free legal consultation.