Medical malpractice can result in many types of birth injuries, with one of the most common being complications from hyperbilirubinemia, otherwise known as jaundice. Jaundice is usually treated easily, but if it is not properly diagnosed and treated, it can lead to other birth injuries, such as brain damage or loss of hearing.
Jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. When old blood cells are broken down, bilirubin is a waste product. In a healthy adult, bilirubin is eliminated by the liver and digestive system, but a newborn’s undeveloped liver is not always able to remove all the bilirubin from the blood, resulting in jaundice.
Individuals with jaundice often have a yellow color in the eyes and skin, and newborns should be checked for jaundice in the hospital every 8 to 12 hours after birth. Jaundice is usually treated with a special light that converts the structure of bilirubin in a way that makes it easier for the body to eliminate. A doctor’s failure to properly detect and treat jaundice can result in serious birth injuries and can be considered medical malpractice.
In 2009, the family of a baby girl who suffered from jaundice was awarded a $1.5 million settlement in a medical malpractice case. The baby had high bilirubin levels and received light therapy, but medical personnel did not provide follow-up testing until two days later, at the insistence of the mother. By that time, the bilirubin levels were three times above the acceptable level. The girl has speech problems and permanent hearing loss.