When you think of medical malpractice, you might reflect on Aunt Ella who had trouble with her knee-replacement surgery; or you may think of Malcolm and his trouble with his heart bypass treatment. Many individuals consider medical mistakes and errors to be something that impacts older patients — but this is not the case. Attorneys and patients consider pediatric medical negligence as medical malpractice.
Children at a very young age can suffer medical malpractice events. Errors in medical treatment for a child can cause complications and suffering throughout the child’s entire life. Because the complication can be severe and enduring, juries award higher compensation in these cases than other forms of medical malpractice.
Medical Errors In Early Childhood
You might think most childhood medical errors come from surgeries, but they don’t. Actually, misdiagnoses are the leading causes of pediatric medical malpractice litigation.
Diagnosing a child’s illness is often challenging because a child is not able to fully express the problems and symptoms he or she is experiencing. The pediatrician tries to make the child feel comfortable and relaxed enough to tells what is bothering him or her. The pediatrician usually asks the youngster a series of questions intended to eliminate some possible illnesses and help zero-in on a potential diagnosis.
When the doctor is dealing with children, it is especially challenging to identify some illnesses in young patients. Some cases have general symptoms that are common to many illnesses. These cases need extensive testing to determine a diagnosis.
Misdiagnosis of Inflammatory Diseases
Inflammatory diseases often occur in children. Some common inflammatory disease that impact children are meningitis, pneumonia, and appendicitis.
Irritation and inflammation of the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain is meningitis. A virus infection, bacterial infection, or invasion of other microorganisms can cause meningitis. Doctors have also found meningitis to be a side effect of some drugs.
Meningitis is an emergency medical situation because the inflammation is so close to the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis can include the following:
- Intolerance of light and loud noises
- Stiff neck
Because of nonspecific symptoms, diagnosing meningitis in young children is especially difficult. Headaches, irritability, and drowsiness can signal many different ailments. Pediatricians usually test the child with a lumbar puncture to check for meningitis if there is any remote chance the illness may be meningitis.
Another inflammatory disease is pneumonia. This affects the lungs and the air sacs, or alveoli of the lungs. When children present basic symptoms of pneumonia, doctors can often mistake the symptoms as those for bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or tuberculosis.
Pneumonia symptoms can involve:
- Chest pain when coughing or inhaling
- Cough, producing mucus
- Fast heartbeat
- Fast, shallow breaths
- Mucus may be rust-colored, green, or tinged with blood
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Shaking or chills
To rule-out pneumonia, the pediatrician would have to examine the child, collect information on the child’s medical history, and obtain a chest x-ray. In this case, an x-ray is essential to diagnosis. Delving deeper into the child’s health, the pediatrician may uncover symptoms of lung disease, heart failure, or acute bronchitis.
Inflammation attacking the appendix is appendicitis. Severe cases cause extreme pain, and non-extreme cases are known as “rumbling appendicitis.” When doctors consider the situation as severe, removing the appendix is the solution and physicians consider this an emergency condition. If not treated promptly, the appendix will burst. This condition is peritonitis and shock, and the condition is deadly.
Symptoms of appendicitis can include the following:
- Abdominal swelling
- Dull pain near navel
- Extreme pain in the lower right abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Painful urination
- Problems with bowel movements
- Severe cramps
Several appendicitis symptoms resemble other medical situations, such as Crohn’s disease, gastritis, bladder infection, intestinal infection, gallbladder problems, and urinary tract infection. An accurate diagnosis frequently includes an abdominal or rectal exam, urine tests, blood tests, ultrasound scans, and computed tomography scans.
Childbirth and Infant Injury
When considering childhood and infant medical malpractice, some frequent situations come to mind. You can often see medical negligence in cases where doctors treated developmental dysplasia of the hip, congenital brain damage, and infant brain injury,
Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)
Congenital dysplasia, hip dysplasia, or developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) are all names for a deformity of the hip joint. Often this entails loose connective tissue that permits the femur bone to move in the socket. In the worse cases, the looseness becomes an actual displacement of the femur.
This condition can occur when there is an abnormal position of the fetus in the womb, or during delivery. It is up to the obstetrician to notice this deformity and endeavor to minimize it. This condition will have lasting, life-long consequences for the child.
Congenital Brain Damage
Congenital brain damage occurs during childbirth. Several conditions can evolve from this situation. It can cause congenital hydrocephalus (CSF), epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and an array of other medical problems.
Various types of brain damage exhibit different symptoms. Types of brain injuries include the following:
- Birth Trauma
- Bleeding of the Brain
- Brachial Plexus
- Brain Injuries From Birth
- Brain Ischemia
- Broken Bones
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cervical Dystonia
- Chorioamnionitis Misdiagnosis
- Cystic Fibrosis Misdiagnosis
- Erb’s Palsy
- Fetal Lacerations
- Forceps Delivery
- Group B Strep Infection Misdiagnosis
- Hepatitis B Virus Misdiagnosis
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
- Klumpke’s Palsy
- Perinatal Asphyxia
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Rubella Misdiagnosis
- Syphilis Misdiagnosis
- Toxoplasmosis Misdiagnosis
- Urinary Tract Infection Misdiagnosis
- Wrongful Birth
Risks Factors for Infant Brain Injury
Something that increases a person’s chances of developing a disease is a medical risk factor. Below are some common risk factors for infant brain injury:
- Bleeding in the fetus before birth
- Infections in the mother, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus syphilis or toxoplasmosis
- Other birth defects, such as spina bifida or severe jaundice
- Incorrect use of forceps during delivery
- Unsafe position of fetus in womb or during delivery
- Incompatible blood Rh between mother and infant
- Oxygen deprivation of the brain
- Head trauma
The obstetrician should be aware of any situation that may increase the risk of congenital brain damage. Injury to the brain causes suffering the child for the rest of his or her life. A doctor who fails to notice or act upon certain risks is in damage of being liable for medical malpractice.