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Birth Injury Case Claims Brain Damage from Hypoxia

infant holding hand

Last month, an Irish mother testified before a Medical Council after her infant son suffered hypoxia during the birth process. Her Tipperary doctor faces allegations of poor professional performance in relation to the now two-year-old boy.

The mother filed a birth injury lawsuit against the doctor, claiming he did not put an adequate treatment plan in place following the child’s birth and his diagnosis of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Specifically, the lawsuit claims he failed to make sufficient arrangements allowing the baby to receive hypothermic or “cooling” treatment.

Researchers have found that lowering the body temperature of full-term babies who fail to receive enough oxygen or blood to the brain during birth reduces their chances of becoming disabled or dying.

Baby born by emergency C-section

The child was born by emergency C-section on June 15, 2012. The mother suffered a ruptured uterus, prompting the immediate delivery of her third child. She described the terrifying moments leading to the emergency surgery, describing it as “panic stations” because the infant’s heart rate had dropped. The mother said she was able to feel what the doctor was doing and held onto his belt as he tried to shake her off. The baby was close to death and a team of doctors worked to resuscitate him.

The boy’s mother said, “I began shouting girl or boy? Nobody answered. Then I began shouting dead or alive? Still nobody answered.”

The infant was taken to a special unit for babies after being resuscitated. The mother said a doctor and nurse told her the child had been distressed and given medication. She claims they did not tell her it was anti-seizure medication and there was no discussion about further treatment.

The mother’s sister is a doctor and when she saw the medications the baby was on, she became very upset. She strongly believed he should be in an intensive care unit and further inquired about the cooling treatment. The mother and the aunt asked the mother’s doctor why the cooling treatment had not been administered. According to the mother, her doctor seemed to indicate that the child did not meet the criteria.

Two days after the birth of her child, the mother requested that he be transferred to a different hospital, where he suffered a seizure upon arrival. The boy now suffers from cerebral palsy a neurological disorder impacting muscle coordination and body movement. He is forced to receive ongoing therapy for his condition.

About cerebral hypoxia

Cerebral hypoxia occurs when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients to function. It refers to the outer part of the brain, which is an area called the cerebral hemisphere. Sometimes only the oxygen supply is interrupted, which can be caused by breathing in smoke, carbon monoxide poisoning, choking, diseases preventing movement of the breathing muscles, high altitudes, pressure on the trachea and strangulation.

When both the oxygen and nutrient supply is stopped, cerebral hypoxia is caused by cardiac arrest, cardiac arrhythmia, complications of general anesthesia, drowning, drug overdose stroke, very low blood pressure and injuries to a newborn that occurred before, during or after birth. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to a lack of oxygen, so this condition can quickly lead to brain damage or death.

  1. Irish Examiner, Baby Brain Damaged by Lack of Oxygen at Birth

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Cerebral Hypoxia