Legal Review: Medical Negligence Involving a Child

An increasing number of newborns are left irreversibly disabled, or worse, due to avoidable birth problems caused by errors in medical care during and after birth. According to studies, the infant mortality rate in South Africa is around 27.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. The data on newborn death shows that medical negligence is on the rise in South Africa, which is cause for alarm.

“When parents visit the hospital with their infants, they expect doctors to diagnose and treat them with due care and attention,” says medical malpractice attorney Russell J. Berkowitz. Sadly, pediatricians, nurses, and medical personnel make mistakes and these errors can cause serious injury to infants. Additionally, these mistakes may lead to medical malpractice claims against pediatricians.

The Most Common Cases Constituting Pediatric Medical Malpractice In South Africa

Pediatric malpractice can cause child health to deteriorate in many ways. However, there are other more common instances of medical negligence, particularly when it comes to misdiagnosing illnesses. Some of them include:

#1. Meningitis

Meningitis is the most common ailment associated with pediatric malpractice. According to  research, meningitis occurs in 40 per 100,000 cases, which is ten times the rate in the overall population.

Meningitis can be challenging to diagnose and treat in children since the symptoms are non specific and resemble flu symptoms. As a result, the harm to a newborn is typically progressive. In some cases, it can lead to irreversible damages if a medical expert does not appropriately diagnose the condition of a child promptly.

#2. Appendicitis

Appendicitis, a prevalent medical emergency among children in South Africa, is another common pediatric condition. According to a survey, appendicitis misdiagnosis is between 28 and 57 percent of children from two to twelve years of age in South Africa.

People may mistake Appendicitis symptoms for urinary tract infections or pelvic inflammatory disease. As a result, there are many initial misdiagnoses of newborn appendicitis cases.

Even after a correct diagnosis, the condition may have advanced to the extent that treating it, like meningitis, becomes far more challenging. The consequences of not having the appendix surgically removed promptly can be lethal.

#3. Oxygen Deprivation and Damage to the Nerves

According to studies, birth asphyxia, commonly referred to as oxygen deprivation, is the top cause of injuries in South African newborns. Premature placental detachment, commonly due to an entangled umbilical cord around the neck, causes oxygen deprivation. In South Africa, the rate of newborn brain injuries caused by oxygen deprivation varies between 8.7 and 15.2 per 1000 births.

Another common injury in newborns is obstetric brachial plexopathy. Obstetric brachial plexopathy occurs when the head of a baby is squeezed too tightly during birth, damaging the nerves near the base of the neck. Damage can also occur in newborn arms or wrists, thus, leading to Brachial palsy, Erb palsy, or Klumpke palsy.

#4. Medication Prescription

Medication prescription errors are also a prevalent cause of pediatric malpractice.  In line with research, more than five percent of medical malpractice in the treatment of children is due to medication errors.

Medication errors can have even life-threatening consequences for  a child. According to statistics, doctors are to blame 69 percent of the time.

What to Do If Your Child Suffer Any Medical Negligence

If your child sustains an injury due to medical malpractice, you have to consult an experienced pediatric negligence attorney as soon as possible. When it comes to receiving reliable healthcare, you have to defend the rights of your child. If medical personnel are to blame for your child’s injury, they must be held accountable.

It is about seeking compensation for child suffering and ensuring that similar things do not happen again. A victorious pediatric malpractice lawsuit can impose punitive sanctions against a medical staff member found guilty of negligence, which can act as a deterrent.

Not only does the medical malpractice claim serve as a deterrent to the doctor in question, but to all medical professionals who learn of it. In general, people expect pediatricians, pediatric nurses, and any other medical personnel involved in the care of children to stay watchful. Unfortunately, there are instances when the only way to keep children safe is to ensure they are too afraid to make a mistake in the future.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim For Minor

It is common for families whose child sustains an injury or dies due to medical malpractice to decide to file a compensation claim. The claim might be filed against the medical practice or the state, depending on where the injuries happened. According to South African legislation, the filing of medical malpractice claims must be within three years after the injury date.

However, in unusual situations, this time limit  can vary. For example, if the injury sustained develops over time. However, the safest and recommended approach is to take action within three years. If the claim is against a state or provincial hospital, the institution notification must be in writing within six months of the incident.

In instances where a child sustains an injury, and no parent or guardian has filed a claim on their behalf, the Prescription Act comes into play. The Prescription Act allows for a one-year delay in the prescription term once the injured child has reached the age of 18. Furthermore, to win a medical malpractice lawsuit, there must be proof of negligence.

Possible Outcomes After Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim

After filing a pediatric medical malpractice lawsuit against the liable parties, the victim’s family expects to get compensation for damages. The parents may be entitled to reclaim any treatment costs depending on the severity of the injury. Also, they may get compensation for their child’s pain and suffering and compensation for projected future loss of income or earning potential.

If a child passes away due to pediatric medical malpractice, any claim may be restricted to burial costs and general damages for pain and suffering suffered by the parents.

Furthermore, one or both parents may experience a diagnosable psychological injury such as difficulty in grief, which could affect their capacity to work. Parents can file a claim for lost earnings or earning potential if this is the case.

Final Thought

Medical providers should always be careful when treating children as it will not only prevent avoidable injuries but   will help them avoid medical malpractice lawsuits. If your child sustains an injury due to negligence by an obstetrician, nurse, pediatrician, orthopedic surgeon, or other medical providers, your child may be entitled to compensation. However, you should consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney before filing a lawsuit against the responsible parties.

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