One of the issues that must be examined in a malpractice suit stemming from brain damage at birth is the cause, or causes, of the brain damage. There are a number of factors that have been known to cause or contribute to brain damage at birth. Some factors may affect the fetus at any point during the mother’s pregnancy. Other factors become a greater risk at around the time of birth. It is often hard to pinpoint the exact cause of a child’s brain damage, particularly as more than one factor can play a part in causing brain damage at birth.
Genetic causes of brain damage can be caused by the transmission of a single faulty gene from the parents. An example of this is Tay Sachs disease, a degenerative neurological disorder that is passed to children from parents who carry a specific faulty copy of a specific gene. It is also possible for random genetic mutations to result in brain damage or abnormal brain development of the fetus.
A mother who is infected with a virus during her pregnancy can be at greater risk of having a baby with brain damage at birth. Vaccines are available to protect the mother against certain viruses that place the fetus at risk, such as chicken pox and Rubella. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite found in the feces of infected cats. Pregnant women with cats are encouraged to avoid handling the cat litter until after they give birth.
The improper use of medical instruments used to aide in delivery, such as forceps and vacuums, has been known to cause brain damage at birth. Improper use of these instruments can lead to injuries to the skull, the blood vessels that feed the brain, or the brain tissue itself, all of which can lead to brain damage.
A loss of oxygen to the brain of the fetus at around the time of birth is one of the more common causes of brain damage at birth. Loss of oxygen can be caused by damage to or blockage of the placenta or the umbilical cord, which provide oxygen rich blood to the fetus. A loss of oxygen can also be caused by a fetal stroke.
It is often possible for doctors to minimize the damage done to a fetus’ brain due to lack of oxygen by monitoring both the mother and the fetus during labour, and by performing a cesarean section when there are signs of distress. The failure of a doctor or nurse to properly monitor the mother and fetus, or the failure to perform a cesarean section when it was needed, can be contributing factors to brain damage at birth.
It is important to examine all of the factors that might contribute to brain damage at birth in order to determine if there is a legal claim for medical malpractice. In a medical malpractice suit stemming from brain damage at birth, the court must find that the acts or omissions of the doctor caused, or contributed to, the brain damage in order to find the doctor liable.