Many parents do not know exactly what caused their baby’s injuries. They may know that something went wrong, but no one has explained to them what happened. Or they may only know that their child has disabilities with no explanation of a cause. Even where there has been some disclosure by the doctors about what happened to their baby, many parents still have many unanswered questions. They often face a stonewall when asking for answers from health care providers, either because those health care providers do not know the answer or are afraid of the consequences of providing the answer.
Often BILA lawyers can help get these questions answered. Sometimes, parents will not know the precise questions to ask. Again, BILA lawyers know which questions to ask and who to ask.
Obtain Medical Records
The first step to finding out what happened to your baby is to obtain the medical records. Health care professionals have a duty to record in the hospital chart what happens during their care of a patient. You have a right to obtain your medical records and those of your child. If you have hired a lawyer to investigate a potential case, that lawyer can, and should, do that for you. All you will need to do is sign authorization forms allowing them to do so on your behalf.
There are many different kinds of medical records that provide valuable information about what happened to your baby. The clinical notes and records from your prenatal doctor show the health of the baby and mother before labour and delivery. The mother’s chart from the hospital gives information about how well the baby tolerated labour while in the womb and whether there were any complications during the labour and delivery process. The baby’s chart from the hospital shows any complications the baby had after he or she was born. Importantly, experienced birth injury lawyers always obtain copies of the actual imaging (MRIs, CAT scans, and ultrasounds) taken during the pregnancy and newborn period. These included prenatal ultrasounds during done during pregnancy and imaging of the newborn’s brain after birth.
Review the Records
Once your lawyer receives your medical records, he or she will review them. Reviewing medical records from, for example, labour and delivery are difficult unless you have experience with the records and what they show. It is easy to miss something important if you are not used to working with medical records. Abbreviations and acronyms are commonly used in medical records, and as a result, most people do not understand what is written. The heart rate of your baby while in the womb is tracked electronically and is vitally important to determine what happened, but meaningless to someone who has never looked at the electronic heart rate tracings before. A BILA lawyer knows what to look for in the records, is familiar with fetal heart tracings, and is particularly knowledgeable about the significance of certain entries in those records.
To determine what happened to your baby, birth injury lawyers aim to answer two main questions:
1) Was somebody negligent (put another way, did somebody do something wrong)?
2) Did that negligence cause an injury to the baby?
The answer to both questions is usually not obvious to an ordinary person. Your BILA lawyer will carefully review all the relevant medical records to identify the issues of importance and the questions to be asked of the medical experts. Answering these questions will involved feedback from experts (obstetrician s, neurologists, and neuroradiologists, for a few examples). Those experts look at the antenatal records, labour and delivery records, and imaging to form an opinion on what happened. Importantly, in most cases, the opinions of a number of experts must be coordinated and agree in order to make the necessary connection between the substandard care and the harm.
You do not necessarily have to pursue a lawsuit if you have concerns about your medical care. Another option is to make a complaint directly to the governing body of the health care professional you are concerned was negligent. For example, a doctor is governed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a nurse is governed by the College of Registered Nurses or College of Licensed Practical Nurses. You can both lodge a complaint and pursue a lawsuit at the same time if you wish.
File a Complaint
Another option is to make a complaint to the Patient Relations department of the hospital where your baby was born. The process is somewhat similar to making a complaint to the health professional’s College but there are two differences:
1) This process often does not focus on one particular person, unless the care by one particular person is the focus of the complaint, and generally looks at how the care team functioned as a whole.
2) The hospital will also look at the systems that were in place, in addition to the actions of the individuals involved, to determine whether the systems were responsive to the needs of the patient.
College and Patient Relations complaints do not result in compensation even if someone is found to have done something wrong in a way that contributed to the injury. These processes are meant to ensure that the people providing medical care are competent and meeting a particular standard, and to ensure it does not happen again if those people did not meet the standard of care. However, going through these processes can assist in finding out what happened to your baby.
There are a few avenues to take in order to find out what happened to your baby, and you can take more than one of those avenues at the same time. Experienced birth injury lawyers are well-positioned to assist you in deciding which route to choose. Regardless of which route you choose, having the advice of an experienced birth injury lawyer through each step is important to ensure you get accurate answers.