During your pregnancy, your liver will remove bilirubin on your baby’s behalf. However, after birth, the baby’s own liver needs to do this job. If bilirubin builds to excess in a baby’s blood, the result may be jaundice. Jaundice may be evident from a baby’s yellow skin, and doctors should treat it. If severe jaundice is left untreated, the result may be kernicterus, a type of permanent brain damage that can result in hearing loss, vision issues, teeth problems, intellectual disabilities, and athetoid cerebral palsy. If you suspect that your baby developed kernicterus as a result of medical negligence, you may be able to recover damages by bringing a birth injury lawsuit. You should consult the Upstate New York birth injury lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano. We assist families in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Albany.Kernicterus
When your baby is born, your doctor and nurse should be alert to signs of jaundice. Jaundice usually appears on the face first, before spreading to other parts of the body. Often, a baby with jaundice is fussy and either does not sleep well or is hard to wake. When jaundice is suspected, your doctor or nurse should perform a transcutaneous bilirubin reading and blood test as appropriate. While many babies have jaundice, some have severe jaundice, and they may need timely treatment to avoid kernicterus.Liability
A health care provider who fails to diagnose or treat jaundice, such that it progresses to kernicterus, may be held accountable in a birth injury lawsuit. You will need to prove that the defendant departed from the professional standard of care, and the departure caused your baby’s injuries. Your attorney will need to retain an expert to provide an opinion about what the professional standard of care was in diagnosing or treating the jaundice, how your provider departed from the professional standard, and how this departure caused your baby’s kernicterus.
The professional standard of care depends on the accepted medical practices among other practitioners in the same specialty in the same geographic region when faced with similar or the same circumstances. Our expert will need to be able to say that your obstetrician failed to abide by the accepted medical practices of other obstetricians in Upstate New York, and this failure caused kernicterus. For instance, when treating a baby for very high bilirubin levels, it may be the accepted medical practice for a doctor to order a blood exchange transfusion. If your doctor did not order the transfusion, they may be liable.
When certain risk factors are present, a baby will need particularly careful monitoring and management of jaundice. These risk factors include preterm births, babies born with certain conditions, a sibling with jaundice, feeding problems, and certain maternal blood types like Rh negative blood. When a risk factor is present, a doctor should be alert to the possibility of jaundice and diagnose it as soon as possible so that treatment can get underway. If your doctor failed to properly account for risk factors and ignored symptoms of jaundice, and kernicterus developed as a result, your doctor may be held accountable.
Doctors may also depart from accepted medical practices by failing to notice kernicterus as it is starting to develop, and this can delay treatment. Kernicterus is progressive, and depending on the stage of progression, it may worsen without treatment.Damages
Brain damage from kernicterus is irreversible and irreparable. Symptoms of kernicterus that can develop as an affected child grows include convulsions, seizures, writhing, muscle spasms, different motor development, stained tooth enamel, hearing problems, and an inability to gaze upward. While nothing can truly make up for the losses sustained as a result of kernicterus, it may be possible to obtain compensation for them.
Compensatory damages that may be obtained in a birth injury lawsuit on behalf of a baby include past and future medical and hospital expenses, special education, assistive equipment, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. For instance, if a child develops cerebral palsy due to kernicterus, the costs of medication, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy may be recovered. A parent’s losses arising from the kernicterus may also be recovered.Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer in Upstate New York
Kernicterus is rare, but it is preventable. If your baby developed kernicterus that you suspect your provider failed to diagnose or treat, you should contact the Upstate New York attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano. Contact us at 833-200-2000 or via our online form.