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Medical malpractice and children: From birth to teens

| Jan 12, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

The things parents want most for their children include safety and good health. Unfortunately, sometimes children are born with health problems that are no one’s fault and that science and technology can not yet prevent.

However, some injuries to otherwise healthy children are completely preventable and are due to a doctor’s negligence.

A study by the Doctors Company – the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer – looked at a wide variety of factors in claims filed on behalf of pediatric patients.

The claims were divided into four age groups: neonatal (babies less than one month old), 1st year (babies from one month to 12 months old), child (1 year through 9 years) and teenagers (10 years old through 17 years old).

Most common claims involving newborns

For instance, the most common cause of medical malpractice claims in the neonatal group involved injuries that occurred during labor and delivery (63 percent). Diagnosis-related claims (failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis or wrong diagnosis) were next at 58 percent (note: malpractice claims often cite more than one area of doctor or hospital negligence).

The physician specialties named most often as defendants in pediatric claims:

  • Obstetrics: 24 percent
  • Pediatrics: 14 percent
  • Orthopedics: 7 percent
  • Emergency medicine: 6 percent
  • Family medicine: 6 percent

The most commonly injured body part in the malpractice claims was consistent across the four age groups: the brain.

The worst outcome of all – patient death – occurred in 13 percent of neonatal claims; 30 percent of claims for patients in their 1st year; 15 percent in the Child category and 13 percent in the Teen category.

Pediatric patient injury severity

According to the Doctors Company’s research, patient injury severity varies widely across the different age groups. Seventy-five percent of injuries to neonates are serious, with the rate dropping to 65 for first-year patients, 44 percent for child and 32 percent for teenagers.

While the research revealed that the most common cause of medical malpractice lawsuits filed on behalf of neonates was diagnosis-related (failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis and incorrect diagnosis), there have been high levels of diagnosis-related claims filed on behalf of older pediatric patients, too, ranging from 29 percent to 47 percent over the past decade.

What the research does not reveal is the heartache and physical pain the young patients endured when they were injured by negligent doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Of course, the patients’ parents suffered as well – often the intense emotional pain parents feel when their children are needlessly injured.

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