A birthing scene is buzzing with doctors, nurses, and family members rushing around the delivering patient. With such commotion, it is not unusual for accidents to occur, though it is less common for a doctor or nurse to drop a newborn unintentionally. Whether a doctor in a hospital or a medical professional at a birthing center is the person helping the baby out of the birth canal, mistakes happen. The baby is encased in slippery vernix caseosa at birth, which makes cautious handling of the emerging newborn a must. Also, doctors who pass the baby along to a nurse for cleaning may cause a fall, whether a short or long distance from the baby to the surface that stops the fall.
While accidents happen, dropping a baby is a potentially serious accident that should not happen among healthcare professionals who routinely handle newborns. When a healthcare provider drops a baby, the parents may be eligible to seek compensation for the newborn’s injuries. Any drop or fall may result in a medical malpractice claim.
Defining a Newborn Fall or Drop
Reputable healthcare research organizations, including nursing quality research, define newborn falls or drops as an infant’s accidental descent to a floor, table, person, or other surface, regardless of injury or a baby slipping from someone’s hold or grasp. According to an article in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing entitled “Preventing in-hospital newborn falls: a literature review,” about 600 to 1,600 newborn falls occur nationwide.
Top Reasons that Newborns get Dropped after Delivery
Sometimes, a parent drops their baby, especially after a cesarean birth or using pain medication. A breastfeeding or extremely exhausted parent may drop their baby, too, more often in the early hours of the morning after a few days of giving birth. Hospital staff must track and monitor those patients more susceptible to dropping their babies due to these well-known risk factors. Other factors contributing to infant drops are poor lighting, trip hazards like wires or poorly placed equipment, and slick floors. In addition, high hospital beds, open bedside rails, and distant baby bassinets from the bed can induce a fall.
In one real-life example, an Arizona doctor dropped a newborn within seconds of delivering one of the premature twins. The father video recorded the doctor dropping his newborn on a table, whom other hospital employees helped recover and prevent from falling to the floor.
Babies can Suffer Serious Harm from Being Dropped in the Hospital
Although hospital staff are busy, safety protocols to prevent falls are critical to avoid devastating accidents. Newborns who fall may suffer from temporary or lifelong harm, such as brain bleeding or damage, skull fracture, broken bones, bruises, abdominal injuries, and wrongful death. The extent of the injury is relative to the severity of the fall, from a greater or lesser height or on a hard or soft surface.
Skull fractures and brain damage from a severe fall may require surgeries and long-term therapeutic treatment. Any brain injury may result in permanent intellectual, physical, and emotional damage. Complications, such as cerebral palsy, a movement disorder, can result from a fall that causes neurological damage. The condition ranges from mild to severe, requiring treatment, therapy, and medical assistance devices to help a child perform daily life tasks.
Safety Recommendations to Avoid Newborn Drops
With so many disastrous outcomes from a newborn fall, hospitals must have safety procedures for handling high-risk patients with newborns. The Joint Commission on leading healthcare organization practices recommends healthcare facilities handling births educate staff and patients about infant fall prevention, including helping new parents rest, assisting exhausted parents in breastfeeding, and standardizing routine checks and reporting for high-risk patients.
Obstetricians who routinely deliver babies understand the medical standard of care they must adhere to in preventing accidents in the delivery room and beyond. Their education, skill, and experience are measured against other similarly situated doctors to determine whether they breached their duty of care to prevent injury to their patients. Medical experts examine physician decisions and behavior, considering what other doctors would do in their circumstances, to determine whether negligence occurred.
Know Your Rights if Your Baby was Dropped after Birth
Doctors owe duties to their patients, and when a doctor-patient relationship for diagnosis and treatment exists, that duty to provide minimally standard medical care arises. Once a physician breaches that duty by failing to prevent an infant fall or drop that leads to a newborn’s injury, the physician may be liable to the parents for their damages. Treatment costs and the emotional trauma of witnessing injury to their beloved baby are among the costs recoverable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Parents can sue a negligent medical professional who injures their child. The problem parents face, however, is in assessing damages. Additionally, the challenge for any parent of a dropped newborn is to prove that a medical professional caused damage, making the connection between their negligence and the subsequent injuries and damages. Should a pediatrician diagnose brain damage a year or more later, the parents need a medical expert and assistance from a skilled medical malpractice attorney to prove that the fall caused the injury. This is vital in order to support a medical malpractice claim for compensatory damages, which requires the plaintiff to prove the elements of a malpractice claim, namely, duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Talk to our New Jersey Attorneys Handling Claims for Dropped Newborns
The New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers on our team handle various medical negligence claims arising before, during, and after childbirth, including those involving newborns who are dropped in the hospital after delivery. When you consult with one of our medical malpractice attorneys about your baby’s fall at the hospital, you will receive experienced, knowledgeable advice on the strengths and challenges of your claim and the potential outcomes. Becoming clear on your options is crucial to deciding what to do when your infant suffers from fall injuries. We are here to assist you today by contacting us online or calling 866-708-8617. Simply reach out to us for a free consultation to discuss your case.