Infants requiring special care following premature births or due to complex congenital conditions are often treated by neonatologists. Advances in medical technology and the evolution of the neonatal field have even allowed these specialists to perform surgical procedures on children while they are still in the womb. Without discounting the value of the services they provide, it is important to consider how reckless choices or errors can impact the lives of children and mothers under their care. The Chicago neonatologist medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC serve the needs of children and mothers who must suffer the rest of their lives due to a medical error or delay in treatment.
The Educational Requirements of a Neonatologist
Neonatology is subspecialty of pediatrics dedicated to the treatment of unborn children and infants suffering distress due to injuries, defects or premature births. They are most commonly employed by hospitals and serve in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. In order to become and serve as a neonatologist, medical students must dedicate their entire lives to ongoing education so that they are up to speed with the latest breakthroughs in the emergency treatment of pediatric patients.
After completing a degree in medicine or osteopathy, an aspiring neonatologist must enter a three year residency program in the field of pediatrics. They are then required to enter a three year fellowship program in neonatal-perinatal medicine and become certified through the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and neonatal-perinatal medicine. These certifications require upkeep that is mainly in the form of continued education and performance review. Neonatologists must complete self-evaluations of their work, take routine classes to further their education and recertify on a regular basis.
This dedication does not go unrewarded, as the average neonatologist earns over $200,000 a year, with the potential to earn much more over time with experience and through membership with certain medical organizations. Our Chicago neonatology injury lawyers believe that with such responsibility and benefit should also come accountability, which is why we will not hesitate to seek just compensation for the victims of medical malpractice under the care of negligent doctors.
The Vital Functions and Procedures Performed by Neonatologists
Pediatricians and obstetricians are responsible for providing much of the medical care mothers can expect through a pregnancy. A neonatologist is called on when it is evident that the child is suffering from complex conditions that could affect development or survival. The conditions that these doctors may treat could include the following.
- Congenital heart disease — if the child is suffering from a heart defect or disorder, a neonatologist will monitor the child’s progress throughout the pregnancy and take immediate action if it is evident that he or she is in distress. At times, it could be possible to perform surgery on the unborn child while still in utero.
- Genetic disorders — a neonatologist can assist in the treatment of genetic disorders by monitoring the child throughout the pregnancy and offering treatment post-delivery.
- Respiratory problems — if the child is having difficulty breathing, a neonatologist can provide emergency care to open the airway and treat the root issue. In some instances, this may involve surgical intervention.
- Premature birth — children that are born prematurely are more prone to suffer serious complications, which can include deformities, low birth rate, failure to thrive and more. Neonatologists treat and monitor these children until they can begin to thrive.
- High risk pregnancy — a neonatologist may assist during the delivery of a child when the pregnancy is considered high risk. This is primarily so that he or she can act quickly upon any sign that the child is in distress and provide immediate care once the child has been born.
- Treatment of infections — an infection can have devastating consequences for an infant, which is why the infection needs to be diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion. Delays in treatment can lead to a high fever which may damage vital organs including the brain and heart.
- Birth asphyxia — if the child is unable to breath, it can result in damage to the brain and to the rest of the body through oxygen deprivation. A neonatologist will treat the resulting conditions and assess the health of the child once breathing has been established.
- Fetal distress — in the event of prolonged labor, high risk pregnancy or other complications, the child could enter distress when experiencing bleeding or oxygen deprivation. A neonatologist will take whatever action is appropriate to save a child in distress and then to treat whatever injuries the child may have suffered during distress.
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy — this is the specific condition that occurs due to asphyxiation or oxygen deprivation and can lead to more serious conditions such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, motor impairment and developmental delay.
- Fetal stroke — during a fetal stroke, a clot or blockage forms in the child’s brain, resulting in immediate distress. The amount of brain damage suffered is usually proportional to how quickly the stroke is noticed and treated.
- Spina bifida — this condition occurs when the spinal cord does not develop properly, often exposing the spinal cord and nerves. It can result in the formation of a sac located in the middle of the child’s back due to the collection of spinal fluid and may lead to muscle weakness of the lower extremities, paralysis, seizures, a curved spine and deformed feet. Surgical procedures performed while the child is still in the womb have been known to alleviate symptoms and increase the chance that the child can walk.
- Malformed organs — children that suffer from malformed organs may require immediate care following birth when those organs do not function as they should. Examples include malformed kidneys or deformities in the lungs.
- Injuries to the mother — high risk pregnancies may also place the mother at risk and a neonatologist may need to act if the mother experiences hemorrhaging during and following birth. While locating the cause of the bleeding, she must be provided with fluids and a transfusion, if needed.
There are high expectations placed on neonatologists because their patients are vulnerable and often in distress. The nature of their work means that they are only involved in the births of children who are already at an elevated risk of being injured or suffering from deformities and congenital diseases. Our Chicago neonatologist injury lawyers have noted that most of the errors they commit occur during labor or delivery rather than after birth because they failed to make ensure that their attending staff was equipped with the devices needed to monitor the child’s vital signs and treat potential concerns.
Common Causes of Neonatology Malpractice
It is the duty of a neonatologist to account for all of the following when treating an unborn child in a high risk pregnancy.
- The monitoring of the child’s vital signs. Common malpractice claims stem from the failure of the doctor and staff members to use a fetal monitor to track the child’s heartbeat. They may also neglect monitoring the pH level of the umbilical cord for signs of oxygen deprivation.
- Assembling a staff of doctors and nurses equipped to handle specific concerns that the child is at risk for. In addition to making sure that the right personnel are available, a neonatologist must also be aware of the location of critical equipment in the event it is needed.
- Failing to prepare an emergency treatment plan for a premature birth. The lack of a plan forces doctors and staff to make tough and hasteful decisions.
- Misdiagnosing conditions or failing to determine a diagnosis in a timely manner. Minutes and seconds make a marked impact on the prognosis of a newborn that is suffering from a serious medical condition or disease and the failure of doctors to diagnose and treat a condition may consequences that the child will need to live with for the rest of his or her life.
- Failing to follow up and monitor the progress of patients. Once a physician is aware of a condition, it is important to track the progress of the child to determine whether the medical treatment being offered is having the desired effect and whether additional complications have arisen.
If a child survives after being injured during or following birth, the family is forced to watch as the child suffers throughout his or her entire childhood. There is a financial burden placed on the families of special needs children in addition to the emotional anguish they must endure while helping their child through developmental delays and cognitive or motor impairment. If a family member is forced to stay home to care for the child, it can also place even more strain on finances and make life extremely difficult for everyone involved.
Neonatal Malpractice Awards
$7,000,000 Settlement; Neonatal Malpractice; Winnebago County, Illinois
The events of this case took place in Rockford, Illinois. A baby was born in a hospital at just twenty-five weeks. Roughly two weeks later, the little boy developed three infections. They were blood-borne illnesses. These infections eventually led to other, more serious problems such as sepsis, brain damage, pneumonia, and other things. Going forward, the boy would require round-the-clock medical care. In fact, he had already consumed over one million dollars in medical bills. His family sued the facility where the events occurred. They alleged that the defendant did not maintain a sanitary environment. Also, they claimed that the facility did not properly spot and treat the infections at issue. The defendant replied that the issues came from the baby's premature birth, not anything they did. However, as the litigation progressed, this was not a defense they would put forward at trial. Both sides settled for a reported $7 million.
$5,000,000 Settlement; Neonatal Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The affected patient here was a little boy. He was born just under seven months at two pounds. The doctor that was attending to him was a "moonlighter." That means that he did not work regularly, especially at the facility involved. The boy stayed in the neonatal unit. While there, he contacted e. coli. That caused a number of life-altering problems such as osteomyelitis in his leg, brain damage, and vision loss. His parents sued the hospital and the moonlighting doctor. They complained that the defendants did not put in place a supervisory system to stop this. They thought the doctor and nursing staff should have watched the boy better to prevent any infection from occurring. The defendants were faced with the fact that they messed up. There mere occurrence of these infections while the boy stayed there was proof positive that they had errored. The only question remaining was how much they would pay. That question was decided once they settled for $5 million.
$1,000,000 Settlement; Neonatal Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The baby at the center of this case was one from a set of quadruplets. He was born at about seven months. Staff used a catheter while he lived in the intensive care unit. Apparently, that catheter became infected. Then, the infection spread to his heart where it took down the atrium wall, on the right side. Fluid leaked in and cardiac tamponade followed. The boy died not long after these developments. He was survived by his siblings and parents. The family sued the neonatal clinic. They alleged that the defendants were negligent and responsible for the wrongful death of their family member. They specifically cited the defendants with improper use of a catheter, insufficient monitoring systems, and a breakdown in management and care. They sought compensation for their damages including pain, grief, and medical bills. The defendants did not push them in court. They agreed to settle. The family received $1 million in compensation.
$1,000,000 Settlement; Neonatal Malpractice; DuPage County, Illinois
The affected patient in this neonatal case was a newborn boy. The staff at the neonatal intensive care unit used a PICC line. Unfortunately, they did properly that catheter. The boy fell into respiratory distress without warning. There was fluid buildup in his chest, but the staff did not see that. They also did not question whether it was the PICC line that was causing these problems. As it turned out, the PICC line was responsible for the boy's rapid decline. It had torn his brachiocephalic vein and let fluid into the pleural cavity. The doctors and nurses failed to discover this and respond quickly. Consequently, he passed away the next day. He was survived by his siblings and parents. They sued promptly for wrongful death. The providing doctor and facility were the main targets of this litigation. They ended up settling as well as other unnamed parties. The families recovered a combined sum of $1 million for their economic, emotional, and other losses.
Experienced Neonatology Medical Malpractice Lawyers
It can be mentally and emotionally challenging to determine just who might be at fault for your child’s injuries when things go wrong. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can help by performing a thorough investigation into the events preceding and following your birth so that you know what options you have when it comes to recovering the compensation you need to provide for your child. Our team of medical lawyers has extensive experience and success representing the interests of those injured due to medical negligence.
Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our award winning Chicago neonatologist medical malpractice attorneys so that we can gather the information we need to conduct our investigation. We will gladly answer your questions and review your legal options so that you know what to expect and can make an informed choice on how you wish to proceed. All of our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so unless we are able to secure compensation on your behalf, our services won’t cost you anything.