Jaundice is a condition in which a newborn baby’s blood contains an excess of bilirubin. Because bilirubin is yellow in color, a baby with jaundice often has both skin and eyes that appear yellowish.
Most infants recover from jaundice on their own or with non-invasive treatments, but complications can result when ongoing or severe jaundice goes untreated. If your doctor or healthcare provider fails to treat jaundice and your baby is harmed, you may be entitled to sue for medical malpractice. It is important to contact a Chicago birth injury attorney right away to learn about your legal rights and options.
Who is at Risk for Untreated Jaundice?
Each day, a small number of red blood cells die and are replaced in one’s body. The liver removes the dead blood cells. This removal creates bilirubin, which is in turn broken down by the liver and removed in the stool. If a baby’s body is not able to break down and remove bilirubin, jaundice occurs.
Breast-fed and premature babies are at greater risk of being unable to remove bilirubin and developing either mild or severe jaundice. A baby suffering from an underlying disease or medical condition impacting the liver, gallbladder or pancreas may also be at greater risk of severe jaundice. For example, babies may be prone to jaundice if they are born with:
- Gilbert syndrome
- Dubin-Johnson syndrome
- Rotor syndrome
- Crigler-Najjar syndrome
- Immune disorders
- Abnormal blood cell shapes
- A blood type that does not match their mother’s
- Bleeding under the scalp due to difficulties during birth
- Infection, including congenital infection such as syphilis
- Inherited disorders
- Cystic fibrosis, hepatitis or other diseases that impact the liver/digestive system.
Symptoms of Untreated Jaundice
Complications of jaundice could be life changing. That’s why it’s important for healthcare providers to recognize and respond to the basic symptoms indicating an infant has jaundice. These symptoms include:
- Yellowing of the skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and mucus membranes
- Poor feeding habits
- Extreme fatigue.
Elevated bilirubin levels are, of course, the most obvious symptom of infant jaundice and the hallmark of the condition. A doctor can order a check of the baby’s bilirubin levels.In many hospitals,a check is performed within 24 hours of birth as a matter of standard operating procedure.
Medical Malpractice and Untreated Jaundice
Because jaundice is so common, doctors and healthcare providers should all recognize the risk and be able to tell when a baby is jaundiced. If a doctor or healthcare provider fails in diagnosing and treating jaundice when a reasonable doctor would have done so, the care provider can be held legally accountable for malpractice.
Healthcare providers, for example, could be considered legally liable for complications suffered by a child with untreated jaundice if:
- The hospital or care provider caused or contributed to the jaundice through the aggressive use of forceps or a vacuum at birth.
- The hospital was unreasonably negligent in not having policies on when to check bilirubin levels, especially in infants such as premature babies at high risk.
- The doctor or healthcare provider missed the symptoms of jaundice.
- Treatment was not provided to a jaundiced infant.
To determine if a healthcare provider committed malpractice, it is important to determine what a hypothetical reasonable doctor would have done. If a reasonable doctor would have identified and properly treated jaundice, your doctor who failed to do so can be considered liable for negligence.
Consequences of Medical Malpractice Involving Untreated Jaundice
If your child suffers from jaundice and your doctor doesn’t diagnose or treat properly, your child could be at risk of:
- Cerebral palsy due to high levels of bilirubin in the body
- Hearing impairment (deafness) as a result of excess bilirubin
- Brain damage caused by high levels of bilirubin.
If elevated bilirubin levels remain in the body for longer due to the untreated jaundice, the infant is at greatest risk of suffering permanent and lasting harm.
Contact a Chicago Untreated Jaundice / Birth Injury Lawyer Today
If your doctor failed to diagnose or treat infant jaundice, your doctor may be liable for negligently failing in his responsibility to provide reasonably competent care. A Chicago untreated jaundice lawyer can help in determining if you have the evidence to bring a malpractice suit against your care provider and assist you in all steps of the lawsuit.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we concentrate on birth injury cases, including those involving untreated jaundice. You will not pay for our legal services unless we obtain compensation for you and your family. To learn how our Illinois untreated jaundice lawyers can help, give us a call today at our toll-free number or contact us online. We can provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation.