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Jury awards malpractice damages to family in birth injury trial

The family of a three-year-old Nebraska girl who suffered nerve and structural damage during childbirth has been awarded $1.8 million for medical malpractice errors that led to permanent paralysis of the young girl's arm.

Birth injury experts from Kentucky and across the nation have noted the case and the two critical errors that were especially cited in the jury's decision to award such a large sum of money.

The first error involved the doctor electing to use a vacuum to help bring the baby through the birth canal, which the plaintiffs argued was an unnecessary measure that created unnecessary stress on the child.

Complications arose when the baby's shoulder got stuck on the mother's pelvic bone. The second major error committed by the obstetrician was pulling down on the baby's head to dislodge the arm and bring the baby through -- this action, which was described by the plaintiffs as a panic move on the part of the doctor, led to extreme nerve damage that rendered the arm useless.

There are several approaches doctors typically use to deal with a shoulder stuck behind the mother's pelvic bone, known medically as shoulder dystocia. But the doctor did not resort to either of these proven practices, instead making an impulsive decision that injured the baby.

Part of the urgency resulted from a concern that the baby could suffocate from a lack of oxygen in the birth canal. Lowered oxygen levels can lead to brain damage and even death, but there was no indication during this specific birthing process that the baby's oxygen levels were at risk.

Source: Omaha World-Herald, "$1.8 million awarded in birth injury" Todd Cooper, Nov. 24, 2011

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