401 W. Georgia Street Suite 905 B
Vancouver, BC V6B 5A1
Birth Injury Lawyers Alliance
The Birth Injury Lawyers Alliance of Canada is a national network of personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers who specialize in supporting families affected by birth injuries. Our members are knowledgeable and caring advocates with access to experts in all aspects of birth injury to advocate for children and families.
Our British Columbia and Yukon Regional Birth Injury Lawyer
Vancouver-born Paul McGivern, Q.C. (Pacific Medical Law) is a founding member of the Birth Injury Lawyers Alliance of Canada and a senior litigator with 25 years experience in medical malpractice and birth injury lawsuits. He spent 17 years as a medical malpractice defense counsel.
In 2016, McGivern was named Vancouver’s Lawyer of the Year for Medical Negligence, largely for his expertise in complex medical and legal aspects of malpractice lawsuits. He has served as an adjunct professor at UBC teaching civil procedure and is often an invited speaker for continuing education programs in medical and legal studies. McGivern’s approach to birth injury claims is thoughtful, thorough, and informed by his desire to maximize recovery for families. He is married and has 3 daughters.
Information About Birth Injuries
Birth Injuries include a wide range of adverse events that may occur prior to labour, during labour and delivery, or after the birth. Frequently, these injuries affect the brain or spine of the newborn. Some birth injuries include:
Autism caused by Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). This injury may result when the infant’s brain is deprived of oxygen or blood flow during childbirth.
Behavioural Problems. Hypoxic ischemic events, as well as trauma due to medical interventions involving tools (forceps or vacuum), can sometimes result in neurological damage and concurrent behaviour problems.
Brachial Plexus Injury This injury affects the nerves in an infant’s neck, and may occur if the baby’s shoulder blocks him or her from proceeding through the birth canal. Called shoulder dystocia, the injury occurs if nerves are stretched or detached from the as the obstetrician attempts to dislodge the infant’s shoulder. While the injury is usually temporary, occasionally the effects of the injury, such as impaired functioning of the arm, are permanent.
Cerebral Palsy. This neurologic injury may occur if oxygenation to the infant is impaired during an urgent or critical delivery. It may be caused by a number of complications including umbilical cord compression, rupture of the uterus, or maternal hypoxia, among others.
Fetal Macrosomia. This refers to babies larger than normal. It can be more difficult for large babies to pass through the birth canal, raising the risk of injury. Complications that may arise from Fetal Macrosomia include childhood obesity and metabolic syndromes.
Erb’s Palsy occurs in 1-2 infants out of 1,000 births. Nerves in the shoulder, called the brachial plexus, may be damaged during birth in which pressure is applied to the baby’s neck or shoulder during delivery. The nerve damage may cause paralysis.
Failure to Diagnose or Treat Preeclampsia. Around eight to 10 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure. If incorrectly diagnosed and treated, preeclampsia can be life-threatening for both mother and child.
Fetal and Neonatal Stroke. Previously believed to be unpreventable, fetal and neonatal stroke is sometimes due to preventable hypoxic ischemic episodes during labour.
Hypoglycemia. Babies at risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) require vigilant monitoring before and during labour, and after delivery. Failure to provide adequate monitoring can result in a hypoglycemic brain injury.
Jaundice, Kernicterus and Hyperbilirubinemia. Jaundice, caused when a newborn’s liver is unable to process bilirubin (a blood byproduct) is a very common condition, and relatively simple to treat. However, if untreated, or improperly treated, more serious conditions may emerge and result in serious brain injuries to infants. The brain injury associated with abnormally high levels of bilirubin is called Kernicterus.
Meconium and Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. These injuries occur when a fetus has a bowel movement in utero or during delivery, and the amniotic fluid introduces the waste into the baby’s lungs or blood. It’s possible for infants to asphyxiate due to meconium.
Negligent Resuscitation of a Newborn. Some newborns have difficulty breathing immediately after delivery and are in need of some resuscitation. Negligent resuscitation can result in brain injury. Guidelines exist for appropriate training of birth attendants including techniques for ventilating or intubating.
Newborn Infections. Even minor infections can have serious implications for the health of newborns.
Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL). This neurological injury is most common in babies born prematurely and results from a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Seizures. Seizures can sometimes signal that a brain injury has occurred during labour and delivery. They can also be caused by infections or bleeding in the brain or even stroke.
Trauma from Forceps and Vacuum. The most common injuries from forceps and vacuums are hematoma and hemorrhage injuries.
Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome.This injury may occur when the twins share a placenta (monochorionic twins), and the blood flow between fetuses is unequal.
Whole Body Cooling (Hypothermia). This is a process that can mitigate the damage of a perinatal brain injury. It is imperative that healthcare providers are trained to recognize when this approach is recommended.
British Columbia and Yukon Health Care and Resources
4500 Oak Street
Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1
Toll-free (BC): 1-888-300-3088
4480 Oak Street
Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1
Phone: (604) 875-2345
Toll-free (BC): 1-888-300-3088
3644 Slocan Street
Vancouver, BC V5M 3H4
Phone: (604) 453-8300
West Tower, Suite 350
555 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Z 3X7
Northern Health Perinatal Program
Community Contacts Map and Links
Birth Injury Statistics for British Columbia and Canada
The overall rate of artificially induced labour for all mothers in BC is 27 percent, more than double the rate recommended by the World Health Organization.
Induced labour is often associated with birth trauma.
Rates of preterm births in Canada and Worldwide have steadily increased.
Premature delivery is associated with cerebral palsy and other significant health concerns.
Complications During Birth
On average, fewer than 50 percent of all birthing mothers had a complication-free labour and delivery from 2001-2005.
Compared with cesarean deliveries, midpelvic forceps and midpelvic vacuum deliveries lead to higher rates of maternal and infant trauma, according to a new study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In BC each year, 10-16 cases of cerebral palsy are the result of preventable medical errors.
- A Canadian Medical Association Journal study on the number of adverse events among hospital patients in Canada revealed that 30 percent to 50 percent of complications are preventable.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infant with cerebral palsy alone may need around $1 million in medical care for a lifetime. With intellectual and emotional disabilities, the expenses can more than double.