Knowing what to look out for and what to expect are key steps in protecting your child's health. Which is why you check their temperature when they don't feel well - you're monitoring a potential warning sign. You put sunscreen on them before going outside because you know sun exposure leads to sunburn and, long term, potential skin cancer.
Possessing this knowledge does not guarantee a solution for every situation, but it can help. The same can be said of birth injuries or instances of medical malpractice that may affect, or have affected, your child.
A study by The Doctors Company released in March of 2019 offers insight into malpractice claims involving children. The group analyzed more than 1,200 claims filed on behalf of children from 2008-17. The claims include injuries to children up through the age of 17, and were made against physicians in 52 different specialties or subspecialties (though excluding dentists and oral surgeons). In this post, we will specifically look at claims in the study regarding the neonate (under 1 month old) and first-year (1-11 months old) age groups.
Most common types of injuries
There are a number of potential injuries a newborn might suffer during the course of a medical procedure, including brain injuries, cerebral palsy, fetal distress, physical injuries and more. Which ones are the most common?
Among the neonate patient claims included in the study, nearly half - 48% - cited a brain injury. Arm injuries came in next at 19% of claims, with injuries to the penis (5%), blood (4%) and legs (4%) occurring as well, but less frequently. In addition, three-fourths of the neonate claims involved injuries deemed high-severity.
For patients 1-11 months, brain injuries accounted for 36% of the claims looked at in the study. Damage to the lungs and respiratory system was next at 20%, with heart injuries following at 15%. Blood (9%) and hip (4%) injuries also crop up. High-severity injuries were common among this age group as well, comprising 65% of claims.
These troubling figures underscore how critical of a time the earliest moments of a child's life can be for their health.
Most common reasons for a claim
Perhaps unsurprisingly, claims cited obstetrics-related treatment as the motivation for filing in the majority of neonate cases, comprising 63% of those included in the study. Diagnosis-related issues - either a failure to diagnose, a delayed diagnosis or an incorrect diagnosis -accounted for 14% of claims, while non-obstetric medical treatment allegations made up 13% of claims.
For patients 1-11 months old, obstetrics-related allegations represented a much smaller - though still notable - fraction of claims at 3%. The most common allegation was a diagnosis-related issue, showing up as motivation in 44% of claims. Meanwhile 21% of claims were for non-obstetric medical treatment, and 8% cited non-anesthesia-related surgical treatment.
A bevy of allegations - patient monitoring, anesthesia-related treatment, failure to warn of risks, failure to provide safety, and medication-related - each made up 3% of the claims for this age group.
The study's findings underscore the need to keep detailed records of your child's health. Nearly 15% of claims were filed more than five years after treatment was provided, suggesting a situation that seems settled at the time may actually get worse, resulting in more health issues and higher medical costs down the line.
By knowing when and how medical professionals might make a mistake, you can not only help protect your child in the moment, but may even notice potential issues you moved on from - issues that are maybe worth revisiting.