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The question of negligence in birth injuries and birth defects

If a medical mistake or error caused injury, a patient deserves to know what happened. Unfortunately, a patient is often not in a position to know what really happened during a procedure.

Birth injuries illustrate this predicament. If a doctor or nurse was negligent, that medical mistake could cause injury to the baby. Yet it may be difficult to tell whether a birth defect was preexisting or caused by negligence during the labor or birthing process.

Take the case of a newborn with cerebral palsy. The condition is typically classified as a birth defect, but its cause can be preexisting -- the result of brain damage at some point during the pregnancy -- or the result of an injury to the baby during the birthing process.

In both scenarios, brain injury is usually the predicate cause, yet a patient may not how or when that damage occurred. An obstructed delivery or misuse of birthing instruments might inflict brain damage that causes cerebral palsy. Perhaps the condition could have been detected earlier, had a doctor properly monitored his or her patient. Either way, a patient may not know whether cerebral palsy could have been avoided. Fortunately, a medical malpractice attorney may have strategies for gathering evidence that proves whether a doctor was at fault.

Given the fear of birth injuries, some patients may be wary of the rising popularity of aquatic births. The technique is actually an accepted practice of midwives, but some obstetricians and pediatricians have questioned its safety. Yet several studies have confirmed that the practice is safe. In one, a California professor studied a pool of 1,200 women who had labored or birthed in water. In another study, 12 randomized controlled trials of the technique, involving 3,243 women, also found no increased safety risk.

Source: NPR, “Doctors Say Don't Give Birth To Baby In A Tub, But Midwives Disagree,” Nancy Shute, March 23, 2014

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