During a difficult childbirth, an infant may need to be pulled from the birth canal by a doctor. Often, this is the result of shoulder dystocia or a similar complication. In shoulder dystocia cases, the infant’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone after its head has emerged. The process that follows may cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves in the infant’s shoulder. Torn or stretched nerves can lead to partial or total paralysis in the affected arm.
This is known as Erb’s palsy. While most infants with Erb’s palsy recover nerve function within their first year, in many cases, the effects are irreversible. Long-term, patients can experience the following symptoms:
- Abnormal joint movement and function
- Decreased strength and stamina
- Atrophied muscles
- The affected arm being a different length than the other one
- Problem with coordination or balance
While the extent of the disability may not be as severe as a condition like cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy can greatly affect a child’s quality of life and self-esteem, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
How malpractice can cause Erb’s palsy
Erb’s palsy can be the unfortunate but unavoidable result of a difficult labor. However, it may also occur due to negligence by the obstetrician in charge of helping the mother give birth. Improper use of vacuum-assisted delivery or excessive pulling are two examples of how a doctor’s negligence may directly contribute to a brachial plexus injury.
No child should have to pay for a doctor’s mistakes. Likewise, as the parents of a child who has suffered the effects of medical malpractice, you should not have to pay for any resulting surgeries and other medical care. Finally, if your child is going to live with a disabled arm or shoulder for the rest of their lives, the doctor, hospital or clinic that allowed this to happen may be held financially responsible.