Child Blindness and Vision Problems from Medical Malpractice
New Jersey Attorneys for Children with Visual Impairments Caused by Birth Injury and Pediatric Errors
Your baby was born with severe vision loss or damage to their eyes, perhaps in the midst of serious labor and delivery complications. You’re probably wondering how that could have happened or what went wrong. You might be interested to know more about vision impairment, birth injuries that may lead to blindness, and vision problems resulting from birth defects or childbirth trauma. In some cases, vision problems may be caused by genetic factors or prenatal conditions. In other situations, blindness and similar visual impairments result from potentially preventable birth injuries. Since three-quarters of early childhood learning is visual, vision loss at or before birth or in early childhood can developmentally, socially, physically, educationally and psychologically slow a child’s growth. If your doctor was negligent when delivering prenatal care or handling the birth of your baby and he or she now suffers from vision problems, it may be considered medical malpractice.
Likewise, all neonatal and childhood healthcare professionals, from obstetricians to pediatricians, should be especially alert to ophthalmological conditions in newborns and refer patients to the appropriate specialists immediately after finding infant vision problems. When they negligently fail to do so and your child is deprived of, or delayed in receiving essential medical treatment and care, you may be entitled to compensation. Our skilled team of New Jersey birth injury and pediatric malpractice lawyers assist children and families who suffer harm as a result of negligent medical care, to recover maximum damages. To discuss your child’s unique visual impairments with an experienced attorney and further explore your legal options, call our local office in New Jersey at (866)-708-8617 for a free consultation.
Causes of Visual Impairment in Infants and Children
Blindness and severe visual impairment can develop prenatally and postnatally for preterm and full-term babies. Injuries that trigger sight loss may occur at birth, while other defects develop in the weeks preceding and following birth, such as newborn conjunctivitis, an eye infection contracted in the birth canal from a mother with an infection or sexually transmitted disease (STD); and retinopathy of prematurity, which are defective blood vessels in the retina, potentially causing blindness in premature babies. Other visual disorders arise from birth injuries that occur immediately before, during, or after delivery.
Common causes of vision problems in newborns and children include:
- Oxygen deprivation during birth
- Neurological impairment
- Genetic conditions
- Prematurity related injuries
- Pediatric conditions
- Pediatric cancers
- Pregnancy infections
- Structural abnormalities of the eye
- Eye injury at birth or in childhood
Vision Problems Resulting from Birth Injuries
With advanced technology that seeks to improve birth survival rates, babies are born with better chances of overall health than ever before. Unfortunately, medical mistakes and negligent failures to intervene when possibly dangerous conditions exist have devastating costs for birth injury victims. One such potential cost is having a blind or sight impaired baby. Birth injuries occur in many distinct ways, from failure to recognize and respond to fetal distress, to delayed C-section resulting in lack of oxygen. Blindness or vision damage from oxygen deprivation occurs when the baby’s oxygen decreases or stops temporarily during labor and delivery. Partial or total oxygen deprivation, known as asphyxia, may be due to birth complications, inadequate fetal monitoring, the mother’s deficient oxygen levels from anesthesia, umbilical cord compression, uterine contractions, placental abruption, or the mother’s low blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, or anemia. A baby suffering asphyxia or hypoxia (de-oxygenation at the cellular level) has an abnormal or low heart rate, weak cry, gasping breath, bluish or pale skin and weak reflexes.
In addition, brain damage often causes blindness and sight impairment in newborns. Cortical visual impairment, the temporary or permanent sight loss or limitation caused by oxygen deprivation, occurs when visual pathways in the brain are damaged. Other injuries, such as optic nerve lesions and permanent conditions like cerebral palsy, often arise from oxygen deprivation that leaves babies vision impaired when the brain’s occipital lobe responsible for vision is injured.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Vision Problems in Babies
Early detection of infant sight impairment or blindness lessens some of the developmental, social and economic struggles the sight impaired suffer later in life. Although it can be challenging to identify infants and children with eye problems since they cannot speak and explain what they are experiencing, it is crucial to diagnose and treat sight problems in a timely manner. Immediate treatment upon discovery of vision problems may also prevent further eyesight damage. As such, a premature infant should be screened in the first few weeks of life for injuries and conditions that could lead to blindness. But even before birth, patient history and symptoms may predict potential birth defects. Some conditions need to be treated before birth. For instance, newborn conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotics for the mother’s STD pre-delivery or with immediate eye cleansing and topical antibiotics for the baby post-delivery.
Even after leaving the hospital or birthing center, pediatric eye exams are critical to early detection and prevention of defects that could worsen and develop into vision abnormalities, especially in premature babies. Aside from surgery, therapy and vision aids, like glasses, rehabilitation, refraction and other tools, often improve vision, maintain sight or encourage adaptation. Even if blindness is inevitable and irreversible, early infant education on adapting to sight loss minimizes their social and educational development deficits and maximizes their growth potential. So, doctors must recognize signs and further investigate a suspicion of sight impairment in an infant, running appropriate tests to evaluate the baby’s sight.
A simple physical assessment while the mother holds the baby can check eye tracking. With dilated pupils, the infant’s eyes follow toys or line drawings placed in view. Some conditions, however, must be evaluated under anesthesia. One such condition, cataracts, commonly causes childhood blindness, although it is the most avoidable. In fact, many childhood blindness causes are preventable or treatable. An infant born with congenital cataracts should have corrective surgery within four months of birth, then given glasses, with a follow up surgery to implant lenses later, at around two years, to salvage sight. Infantile glaucoma is another congenital disease that requires surgery and medication. When this condition arises, early intervention is essential to avoid blindness. Additionally, retinal blood vessel abnormalities and retinoblastomas (tumors) can be helped with chemotherapy or eye removal if painful and unresponsive to chemotherapy.
Medical Negligence with Childhood Vision Impairments
Ophthalmologists successfully treat many conditions if caught early enough by proper testing, and prompt treatment can yield profound results. All too often, doctors miss the signs of visual impairments in babies and children, prolonging their suffering and allowing critical time to elapse before initiating treatment that may alleviate damage and prevent further irreparable harm. Whether by negligent acts or omissions, errors by a healthcare provider involving vision problems or blindness may amount to medical malpractice, entitling the victim to compensation.
Experienced NJ Lawyers for Your Visually Impaired Child
If you suspect that a doctor, hospital, or another medical professional failed you and your baby with vision impairments, you should consider your right to file a medical malpractice claim. Consulting with a dedicated New Jersey birth and pediatric injury attorney can assist you with seeking damages for the past and future financial, emotional, and familial costs of your child’s injuries. Contact us (866)-708-8617 to discuss your case and learn more free of charge. Our lawyers represent visually impaired children who have been injured by medical negligence before, during, and after birth throughout New Jersey, and we are here to provide the personalized attention and zealous legal advocacy you and your family need.
- Severe Visual Impairment and Blindness in Infants: Causes and Opportunities for Control, Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology
- Visual problems as a result of brain damage in children, British Journal of Ophthalmology