Doctors: the people you rely upon when you are sick and injured. Hospitals: the place that handles your medical needs. You trust them; they are your health care providers. You have the confidence that they will operate in a professional manner and take every precaution to ensure your safety.
However, even doctors and hospitals make mistakes. When a health care provider fails to meet established standards of medical care due to negligence, lack of communication or diagnostic error, patients often suffer the consequences. Those consequences can be grave.
Medical mistakes are widespread. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that at least 1.5 million people are injured each year by preventable medication errors. The Center for Disease Control reports that preventable hospital infections claim an estimated 99,000 lives each year nationally. The Institute of Medicine projects that medical errors of doctors, nurses, and other health care officials cause death to anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 people annually.
Medical malpractice can occur in numerous situations. Common scenarios include:
- Labor and delivery-related injuries, including erb’s palsy and brain damage;
- Failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner. This includes all types of cancers,heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism, among other conditions;
- Anesthesia errors;
- Surgical injuries, including those that occur during a laparoscopic cholecystectomybariatric surgery, and other types of procedures;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Medication errors.
Medical Malpractice v. Ordinary Negligence
Medical malpractice requires special scientific or medical knowledge or skill that the ordinary layman does not possess. Hence the need for an expert witness. In contrast, ordinary negligence can be assessed by a judge’s or jury’s everyday experience. (Wulbrecht v Jehle, 92 AD3d 1213 [4th Dept 2012]).
To illustrate, a hospital patient undergoing cancer treatment suffered fractures on her way from her bed to the bathroom. The patient claimed negligence against the hospital for not providing a bedpan by her bed. The court ruled that this was a medical malpractice issue, not negligence, because it required special operational understanding of a medical facility. Zellar v Tompkins Community Hospital,Inc. (124 AD2d 287 [3d Dept 1986]).
Furthermore, ordinary negligence and medical malpractice differ regarding their statutes of limitations. In New York state, ordinary negligence has 3 years, while medical malpractice has only 2½.
Moreover, if you are suing a municipality-such as a city hospital or other city healthcare facility-the statute of limitations may be as short as 90 days to file a notice of claim and 1 year and 90 days to file a lawsuit. (New York Consolidated Laws, N.Y. General Municipal Law § 50-I (2013)). As such, it is imperative that you take action immediately.
Proving Your Case
To succeed in a medical malpractice action, you must demonstrate that: (1) your health care provider deviated from accepted practice; and (2) evidence that such deviation is proximate cause to the injury.(Holton v. Sprain Brook Manor Nursing Home, 253 AD2d 852, 678 NYS2d 503 [2d Dept 1998]).
The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion. Sometimes, however, the baby is born with a birth injury, which may have been preventable. If your child has suffered a birth injury, you deserve to understand what caused your baby’s medical condition. If the injury stems from medical malpractice, the doctor, hospital, and staff must be held accountable.
Brain injuries are among the most common types of birth injury, often caused when medical providers fail to properly assess conditions prior to or during labor. There are three broad categories of preventable birth injuries to the brain: (1) oxygen deprivation; (2) trauma; and(3) reduced glucose.
A baby gets oxygen from its mother through the placenta, which serves the same function as a baby’s lungs until birth. Any interference with oxygen delivery can cause birth injury. Oxygen is essential for the development and function of all organs, especially the brain. If the oxygen supply is reduced or shut off, neurons die and cell bodies break down, which can cause brain damage. In turn, the contents of the neurons are released into the baby’s brain,causing swelling. The swelling reduces blood flow in the brain, leading to a further reduction of oxygen supply. This can ultimately lead to death.
Issues with a mother’s ability to adequately supply her baby with oxygenated blood include low blood pressure (hypotension), high blood pressure (hypertension), preeclampsia, eclampsia, or maternal infection. Infections can result in the baby developing Cerebral Palsy.Proper monitoring can prevent these conditions. In addition, when epidurals are used for pain management during labor,sufficient monitoring of the mother’s blood pressure is essential because epidurals can trigger a dangerous drop.
Similarly, our investigations have found that a doctor’s failure to perform a timely Cesarean Section causes anoxia (low oxygen) and oxygen deprivation, resulting in Cerebral Palsy.
Babies can suffer trauma injury during the birth process, either during labor or delivery.
During labor, the cumulative effect of prolonged periods of contractions and pushing, which forces the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvis repeatedly in tight spaces, can cause brain damage.
During delivery, the use of Pitocin to force a vaginal birth when the baby’s size requires a Caesarean Section can cause brain trauma and skull fractures. Inappropriate use of forceps and vacuum extractors can generate blood clots inside blood vessels, leading to perinatal stroke. Other complications include cerebral bleeds, cerebral contusions, stretching and tearing of blood vessels and brain tissue, and compression of the brain with changes in blood flow.
When babies aren’t sufficiently monitored during childbirth they can suffer from oxygen deprivation. Lack of oxygen causes serious trauma to the brain including Cerebral Palsy and other long-term functional impairments.
Prolonged labor can result in a drop of glucose (sugar) in the baby’s bloodstream. Hospital staff should test glucose levels after delivery. Excessively low glucose levels need to be corrected promptly, as failure to do so can cause brain injury.
In addition to brain injuries, another common birth injury is Erb’s Palsy. This occurs during delivery when a baby’s shoulder becomes impacted or stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone (a condition known as shoulder dystocia) and the medical professional performing the delivery, in an attempt to dislodge the shoulder, applies excessive lateral traction to the fetal head,causing nerve damage.
A baby suffering from Erb’s Palsy – also referred to as Brachial Plexus Palsy – may require surgery to regain function. In some cases the damage is too severe for corrective treatment.
When you’re fighting for justice on behalf of an injured child you need the New York lawyers of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. at your side. With more than 150 years of combined experience our attorneys are well-prepared to handle all your legal needs. Call us at 516.806.5722 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation.
At Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., we have extensive experience handling the most difficult medical malpractice cases. All New York doctors, nurses, hospitals, and medical facilities that provide care for their patients must do their utmost to ensure your safety. If you are a victim of medical malpractice, call us, we can help. We will fight for you!