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What Types of Medical Negligence Affect Children the Most?

mother's hand grasping the hand of a sick child in a hospital bed

Quality medical care is essential to a child’s birth and healthy development. Unfortunately, medical negligence can have severe long-term and even permanent effects on the well-being and future of your child.

Medical errors can be difficult to identify. This is especially true when the patient is a child, as children may struggle to communicate their symptoms.

If you suspect that your child has been harmed as a result of negligent medical care, you should speak to a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible. The medical negligence lawyers at Henry Carus + Associates have an in-depth understanding of the complexities involved in child medical injuries. We will fight for the full compensation you and your family deserve.

Diagnostic Errors

Errors in diagnosis are the number-one type of medical negligence that affects children across age groups. These errors can take multiple forms, including:

In recent years here in Australia, the failure of medical practitioners to recognise the early warning signs of septicaemia in children has led to devastating consequences, including progression of that condition to overwhelming sepsis (which can lead to death) or the requirement for ICU treatment and other consequences.

Another example of a condition frequently misdiagnosed in children is meningococcal disease.  If this condition is not treated early, the consequences can be devastating.

In the paediatric population, early diagnosis and treatment of a potentially life-threatening condition is absolutely critical. Children are small and less resilient. Often, the window of time in which a condition can be successfully treated is shorter than in the adult population.

Obstetric Errors

Obstetrics is the medical specialty devoted to labour, delivery and childbirth. Although diagnostic errors account for the majority of medical negligence claims for children as a whole, obstetricians are the physicians who face the most claims.

Most obstetric negligence claims centre on birth injuries. Children can suffer birth injuries during the course of the mother’s pregnancy, during labour and delivery and after being born. Some of the most common errors that give rise to birth injury claims include:

  • Failure to screen for maternal health issues
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Misuse of forceps and vacuum extraction equipment
  • Failure to monitor the foetus during labour
  • Delay in alleviating foetal distress
  • Incorrect use of drugs to induce labour

The impact of a birth injury on a child can be immense. Families may be entitled to significant compensation for the lifetime costs associated with cerebral palsy and other serious birth injuries.

Surgical Errors

All surgeries have some degree of risk. For parents, the thought of a child needing surgery is especially frightening.

Surgical errors can take many different forms. Regardless of the age of the patient, the following forms of negligence can be particularly devastating:

  • Unnecessary surgical procedures
  • Performing the wrong surgical procedure for the patient’s complaint
  • Damaging nearby organs, blood vessels, nerves, etc.
  • Leaving foreign objects (sponges, surgical equipment, etc.) inside the patient
  • Operating on the wrong part of the body (wrong site surgery)
  • Anaesthesia errors
  • Performing surgery on the wrong patient
  • Failure to monitor the patient during and after surgery

Errors during surgery may arise due to multiple issues. Miscommunication, fatigue, impairment and even lack of qualifications and experience can lead to serious surgical errors that can affect children for the rest of their lives.

Negligent Medical Treatment

From annual checkups to emergency room visits, medical care is a regular part of any child’s life. Unfortunately, the majority of medical negligence claims involving children originate in (a) a doctor’s office or clinic or (b) the emergency department.

Missed, delayed or incorrect diagnosis account for many errors committed by general practitioners, specialist doctors and emergency medical personnel. Other errors involve delay or failure to treat injuries and serious medical conditions.

A claim for negligent medical treatment of a child may involve:

  • Paediatric negligence
  • Orthopaedic negligence
  • Emergency room and hospital negligence
  • Psychiatric negligence
  • Dental negligence

You may also have a viable medical negligence claim if a medical professional failed to warn you of the risks associated with a medication or course of treatment for your child. This is especially true if your child suffers from undisclosed complications related to a procedure which results in delayed care.

Medication Errors

Errors in the prescription and distribution of medications can have serious adverse effects for children. Some of the most common issues associated with paediatric medication errors include:

  • Medical professionals prescribing the wrong medication
  • Failure to adjust the dose for a younger patient’s age and weight
  • Pharmaceutical errors in filling and dispensing medications
  • Failure to account for known drug allergies

Medication errors are 100% preventable when doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals exercise the appropriate care in prescribing and dispensing medications. When they fail in these duties, children can suffer adverse reactions and other serious issues as a result of medical negligence.

How Do I Prove My Child Was Injured by Medical Negligence?

To bring a medical negligence claim, you need to prove that the medical professional(s) involved in your child’s care failed to take the steps a similarly qualified professional would have taken under the same circumstances. Unfortunately, this is no small task.

Opinions within the medical profession on the standard of care can vary widely. What’s more, the peer professional opinion defence provides medical professionals in Victoria with a significant degree of protection when they are sued for medical negligence (see Wrongs Act 1958 s 59).

Read More: What Is the Duty of Care in Medical Negligence Claims?

You need an experienced medical negligence lawyer with expert knowledge of the applicable standard of care in your child’s case. The lawyer you choose should also have strong relationships with relevant medical experts who can evaluate the evidence and testify as to how the doctor or other professional deviated from the accepted standard of care.

Contact a Medical Negligence Lawyer Today

Medical negligence claims are always complicated. When the victim is a child, however, the challenges become even greater.

In addition to the enormous mental and emotional toll of a childhood medical injury, families are often unaware of the financial impact medical negligence can have over the course of a child’s life. It is imperative not to settle for less than you deserve for the economic and non-economic damages your child and your family as a whole are facing now and are likely to face in the future.

The Medical Negligence Practice Group at Henry Carus + Associates is committed to getting you more. Led by Michelle Dubrava, a former physiotherapist and insurance defence lawyer who now represents patients harmed by medical negligence, our team understands how to calculate the full value of your claim and pursue the full compensation you deserve.

Please call Henry Carus + Associates at 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our medical negligence lawyers serve clients in Melbourne and throughout VIC.