This article has been fact checked by an experienced birth injury attorney. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
For any content issues please Contact Us.
The death of an infant is a tragic incident, especially if the death could have been prevented. Infant wrongful death causes include asphyxia, physical trauma, medication errors, misdiagnosis of an illness, and more. In some cases, medical negligence causes an infant’s death.
The Death of an Infant
The death of an infant up to 28 days old is termed neonatal death, and it can occur naturally for various reasons. Even with modern medicine, mothers and their babies still die during or immediately after childbirth.
Labor and delivery is a difficult process, and so many things can go wrong. The most common causes or risk factors include birth defects, which are often genetic, low birth weight, and premature births.
Get Matched with a Leading Birth Injury Attorney in Your AreaGet Help Now
Many of these causes are risk factors that either could not be planned for, or they were planned for, but the infant died anyway, despite the best efforts of a medical team.
It is the responsibility of doctors and other medical caregivers to monitor a pregnant patient, recognize potential complications that could harm the child, and take all measures to prevent these complications from causing harm.
When a mother expects medical care and her designated medical caregiver fails in any of these, the baby could die, and that death could be deemed wrongful and negligent.
Asphyxia is restricted or limited blood flow, which directly causes hypoxia or oxygen deprivation. This is a common cause of complications and lasting damage caused to an infant during childbirth and can also be fatal. Many potential factors may cause asphyxia.
In the womb, the baby may lack oxygen because of problems with the umbilical cord. The baby’s head may become trapped in the mother’s pelvis during delivery.
If not removed quickly, the baby can asphyxiate. The urgent pulling on the baby in this particular situation can cause other kinds of birth injuries even if the baby doesn’t die, including Erb’s palsy.
Asphyxia may also affect an infant because of health problems in the mother. For instance, her blood oxygen levels may be low if she has low blood pressure, an infection, or a heart condition.
Asphyxia can also happen if the placenta detaches from the uterus too early.
A woman’s doctor should be able to detect and treat these conditions to prevent complications during childbirth. If an infant is born asphyxiated, the doctor should recognize and treat it immediately to prevent brain damage and even death.
Traumatic Birth Injuries
Another potential cause of an infant’s wrongful death is a birth injury. A birth injury occurs when a baby is physically harmed during labor and delivery.
Physical harm to an infant could be an accident, such as when a baby presenting normally gets stuck in the pelvis, but birth injuries are also the result of negligence.
The inappropriate use of instruments, for instance, can cause injuries to infants. Too much force with a vacuum extractor or forceps can even fracture a baby’s skull.
Failure to Order a Cesarean Section
One of the major responsibilities a doctor has for the care of a pregnant patient is to determine if a delivery is likely to be difficult or if complications are possible.
The doctor then has to make an important, possibly life-saving decision, to perform a Cesarean section and deliver the baby surgically instead of vaginally.
When a doctor fails to order a Cesarean section and the infant dies because of complications that should have been foreseen, that doctor could rightfully be accused of infant wrongful death.
Not all infant wrongful deaths occur during or immediately after labor and delivery. While the mother and infant are still under the care of the hospital or medical center, many mistakes could be made that may result in the child’s death.
Mistakes with medications have the potential to harm anyone, but infants are especially vulnerable to dying from these errors because they are so small. Even a little bit of the wrong medication could be deadly.
This is what happened in the case of an infant wrongful death in Chicago when a baby was born prematurely and was prescribed sodium chloride.
The pharmacy in the hospital made an error and released a dose for the baby that was sixty times too much. The baby died, and the parents filed an infant wrongful death lawsuit. They were awarded $8.25 million over the tragic mistake.
Doctors can also make mistakes in diagnosing conditions an infant is born with or develops shortly after birth. Some of these conditions are life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated quickly.
Infections, birth defects, genetic conditions, hemorrhages, or bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, and kernicterus, a condition caused by jaundice, can all cause a wrongful death if they are not recognized and treated.
There are cases where it is not routine to test for a condition, and the signs are not obvious. However, there are plenty of instances in which a condition should have been detected and treated.
Infant wrongful death is a terrible situation for everyone. The medical caregiver that made a mistake can never take that mistake back, and the parents can never get their baby back.
If you experienced this tragedy as a parent and you think you can show that your doctor or a hospital was to blame because of some action or inaction taken during delivery or soon after childbirth, you may have a case for infant wrongful death.
- Birth Asphyxia - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. (2019, November 8). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430782/
- Birth Trauma - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. (2019, December 31). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539831/
- Hospital Agrees To Pay $8.25M In Baby's Death From Overdose. (2012, April 5). CBS Chicago – CBS 2
Retrieved from: https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/04/05/babys-death-yields-record-settlement-of-more-than-8m/