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Understanding Anencephaly Lawsuits and Your Rights when Your Baby is Born with a Neural Tube Defect in New Jersey

In the miraculous development of the embryo in the germinal stage of pregnancy, so much happens as the group of cells called the blastocyst begins to form an embryo with shape and organs, such as the neural tube, the brain and spinal cord source. An embryo’s organs and systems are in place by two months, sometimes imperfectly. For example, neural tube defects occur when the tube does not form entirely, resulting in partial brain development.

A neural tube defect occurs when the tube end that develops into the brain does not fold and close into a tube. Anencephaly is one type of neural tube defect characterized by incomplete brain, skull, and scalp development. Essentially, parts of the brain and skull are missing. In addition, babies may have abnormal facial features and heart defects. Amniotic fluid enters the tube and erodes the nervous system tissue when it is open. The result is a baby born with a missing forebrain containing the cerebellum and cerebrum responsible for thinking, hearing, vision, emotion, and coordination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that approximately 1 out of 4,600 U.S. births result in infants with anencephaly, and 1 in 33 babies have birth defects. Doctors who practice obstetrical medicine are aware of the likelihood of birth defects and should follow proper prenatal screening protocol for tracking the fetus’s health, alleviating parental concerns, and advising the parents of the fetus’s existing or potential health conditions. Additionally, doctors must know and advise pregnant mothers about certain drugs and medications that have been correlated with the development of birth defects such as anencephaly. Failure to do so may not only lead to a child who is born with a birth defect or diagnosed with anencephaly in utero, but it may also be grounds for a medical malpractice or wrongful birth lawsuit in New Jersey.

If your baby has been diagnosed with anencephaly, take immediate action by contacting our skilled team of New Jersey birth defect attorneys to review your legal options. We can review and assess the viability of your possible claim against those responsible and aggressively pursue compensation from the negligent medical professionals who may have deprived you of the knowledge, understanding, and opportunity for a healthy newborn. Contact 866-708-8617 or fill out the free case review request form and a member of our team will contact you for a free consultation.

What is the Prognosis for Children with Anencephaly?

Unfortunately, it is a fatal condition, so infants do not survive for more than a few hours, days, or weeks, at most, when they make it through labor and delivery. Some are stillborn. Most cases of anencephaly end as miscarriages.

What Raises the Risk of Anencephaly?

The cause of anencephaly is a combination of genetic and environmental conditions. One cause is a genetic characteristic that produces a folate or Vitamin B9 deficiency, but the presence of other genes also poses the risk of neural tube defects. While some factors contribute to the condition, anencephaly may also result from deficient prenatal care. Taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy is one way to prevent certain birth defects, such as those affecting the neural tube.

However, diabetes, obesity, high heat, mellitus, antidepressants, SSRIs (Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa), contraceptives, pesticides, antimetabolic drugs, fertility drugs (Clomid) and anti-seizure medications (valproic acid and Depakote) during pregnancy may contribute to increasing the anencephaly risk for a baby. Thus, the combination of the mother’s genetics, drugs, and environmental contamination may cause congenital defects and disabilities.

How is Anencephaly Diagnosed?

A treating physician may diagnose anencephaly before or after the baby is born. During pregnancy, a physician can order prenatal screenings to test for the condition, which may appear in MSAFP blood or serum tests or an ultrasound. An ob-gyn who treats a pregnant woman with a history of diabetes, birth defects, or medications known to cause anencephaly should screen as early as possible for genetic disorders, especially if the woman is 35 or older. The sooner the diagnosis, the earlier the patient may explore and exercise her options, including pregnancy termination if she ultimately decides that this is the best avenue for her.

What Provides Grounds for an Anencephaly Claim?

In many cases involving anencephaly, failing to diagnose the condition during pregnancy may result in a wrongful birth lawsuit. A doctor may also be liable to a patient for deficient care before and during pregnancy. Gynecologists routinely prescribe folic acid for all childbearing-age women. For women who can get pregnant, even when on birth control, up to 800 micrograms of folic acid daily is the standard recommendation. Birth control can fail, resulting in pregnancy. Physicians who fail to advise women to take folic acid, especially when they know that a woman is planning to get pregnant, may sometimes be found liable after the woman gives birth to a child with birth defects.

Moreover, prenatal screening in the first two trimesters of pregnancy is also customary. Ultrasounds provide pictures of the developing fetus, which can detect fetal nuchal translucency, a fluid buildup in the fetus’s neck. Additionally, amniotic fluid tests screen for abnormal placental proteins or hormones. Blood tests are typical in the first and second trimesters to detect certain protein and hormone levels.

Without advanced warning, a woman may discover their baby’s terminal condition at birth. Such a failure to test, provide proper diagnosis of birth defects, and inform expectant parents, may result in the parents suing for wrongful birth. A lawsuit against a negligent doctor is filed on the basis that the doctor’s failure to test and alert the parents deprived them of their option to terminate the pregnancy or prepare for caring for a child with a grave congenital disability. Discovering anencephaly on the delivery table may be traumatizing, not to mention unthinkable for the child.

Despite the confidence that most place in their doctors, medical malpractice frequently injures mothers and their babies. You may have a medical malpractice claim when your doctor fails to provide adequate pre-pregnancy and prenatal care, or misses diagnosing your baby’s anencephaly. Speaking to a medical malpractice attorney will help you decide what to do. Though a lawsuit is time-consuming and stressful, our trained and experienced medical malpractice attorneys can ease your mind at a time when a birth trauma has left you distraught.

Contact New Jersey Anencephaly Malpractice Attorneys for Help with Your Case

Physicians have a duty to advise their pregnant patients to take folic acid, run prenatal tests, warn about potentially dangerous medications that may harm a fetus by raising the risk of anencephaly and certain other neural tube defects, and inform the parents of potential birth defects when they are discovered during pregnancy. If your doctor failed to do one or all of these essential things, he or she may have breached their duty and thus, may be held liable for medical negligence. If your baby was born with a fatal condition like anencephaly, a jury may likely find the doctor liable for your damages.

You may have suffered emotional and financial injuries going through pregnancy to delivery, believing that you have a healthy baby, only to find out your baby will not live long. Your surprise, anger, and depression may not disappear with a medical malpractice compensatory award. However, you can get the help you need to heal and cover the medical bills and many other losses attributed to the pregnancy, delivery, and burial costs. Call 866-708-8617 for immediate assistance and speak with a seasoned medical malpractice and wrongful birth lawyer on our legal team who can help with your anencephaly case.


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  • How do I know if my child has a pediatric malpractice case?

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