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Infant released from hospital with untreated jaundice won $26M

Many parents spend at least the first night after an infant’s birth in the hospital, taking the time to monitor the health of both the newborn and the new mother. During this time, parents expect physicians and other medical professionals to take any concerns they voice seriously.

Unfortunately, one family from New York is experiencing heartbreak after attending physicians dismissed a mother’s pleas for additional care. The mother voiced concern that her infant’s eyes had a yellowish appearance. Despite these concerns the mother and infant were released from the hospital without additional treatment. The symptom, a classic sign of jaundice, went ignored.

Jaundice, although not uncommon in infants, can lead to severe injuries if left untreated. In this case, the infant may have led a healthy, normal life if the condition was monitored. However, the medical staff did not monitor the condition. Instead, they released the mother and infant from the hospital with instructions that the condition would just “go away,” according to a report in the NY Daily News.

The newborn’s condition did not simply go away. It progressed. When the baby began to vomit the parents took the infant to a different hospital where he was diagnosed with a series of birth injuries directly connected to the untreated jaundice.

Jaundice basics

Jaundice is a fairly common condition. The most common symptom of the condition appears when infants have a yellowish tint to their skin and eyes. Generally, the coloration begins on the infant’s face and progresses downwards to the baby’s chest, arms and legs. Although not all cases require treatment, physicians are expected to monitor the condition’s progression. If it increases in severity, treatment may be recommended.

Symptoms of severe jaundice can include increased yellowing of the skin and eyes, difficulty waking the baby, lethargy and high pitched crying.

According to experts with Mayo Clinic, jaundice is the result of an immature liver’s inability to remove bilirubin from the blood. This substance is naturally found in the bloodstream. Before birth, the mother’s liver removes the substance from the infant’s bloodstream. It is not uncommon for the infant’s body to experience a spike in bilirubin as the infant’s liver begins the process of removing bilirubin on its own. In many cases the infant’s liver is able to properly remove the substance within a few days. However, if the substance is not removed severe, long-term injuries can result.

Because of this danger it is important for a pediatrician to properly monitor the condition. If left untreated, the infant can suffer permanent brain damage. This can lead to palsy, hearing loss and intellectual impairment.

Impact of severe jaundice

The family in the report above now suffers from brain injuries and requires nursing care 24 hours-a-day. Perhaps the most disheartening part of this story is the fact that the infant’s brain damage was completely preventable. Treating jaundice can be as easy as placing a baby under special lights for phototherapy, a treatment that assists the body in breaking down bilirubin. This can help remove the excess bilirubin and give the liver time to fully function before any permanent damage is done.

In cases that lead to injury, compensation may be available to help cover the costs connected to the injury. If you or a loved one were injured in a similar manner, contact an experienced birth injuries attorney to discuss your case.