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Newlyweds Sue Hospital for Medical Malpractice Over Sick Daughter

A newlywed couple is suing two Cooley Dickinson Hospital (CDH) doctors over an alleged improperly performed birth that left their newborn daughter permanently injured with cerebral palsy. The couple filed the lawsuit in early 2016 in the Hampshire Superior Court. According to the lawsuit, the doctors, Jay Sprong and Lisa Stephens, neglected to explain the risks of a vaginal birth after a previous Cesarean delivery (c-section).

The newborn's mother was admitted to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in 2013. She alleges that when her water broke, one of the doctors told her she could continue with a vaginal birth without mentioning any risks to her baby. The infant, however, showed signs of cardiac distress with her heart rate dropping as low as 50 beats per minute. The lawsuit points out that the doctors should have called for a c-section delivery.

The court pleadings explain that the mother's uterus ruptured, allowing baby girl to “float in a blood-filled abdominal cavity.” According to the pleading, this is because the doctors neglected the signs that the baby was in distress.

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What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is one of the most commonly cited birth defects associated with acts of medical malpractice. Any error on the part of a doctor or another type of healthcare provider, such as a nurse or a hospital's administration staff, can be considered an act of medical malpractice if another professional in the same position would not reasonably have taken the same action, and the unreasonable action resulted in a victim's injury, worsened condition, or premature death.

Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder caused by injury to the developing brain. People who live with cerebral palsy can exhibit exaggerated reflexes, uncontrolled motions, stiff and weak muscles, and poor coordination.

Injuries Sustained Before and During Birth

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A breakthrough in the medical community came for migraine sufferers this November, according to MedicalXPress.com. A study from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine found that nerves in the brains of patients who suffered migraines show abnormalities of the “myelin sheath that serves as insulation around nerve fibers,” MedicalXPress.com reports. The study involved observing 15 patients who underwent a surgical treatment that attempted to reduce the negative effects of serious migraines, and included electron microscopy that assessed the structure of cell nerves in patient's brains. The study also examined the presence and function of cranial proteins in migraine patients.

Ultimately, the study found that patients whose myelin sheath was damaged were more likely to suffer migraines. As a result, one doctor in the study “developed migraine surgery techniques after noticing that some migraine patients had reduced headache activity after cosmetic forehead-lifting.” This type of cosmetic surgery removes some of the muscle and vessel tissue surrounding cranial nerves.

This is great news for people who suffer migraines because migraine drugs have long been very prone to negative side effects in patients. According to Healthline, painkillers, often prescribed and taken for migraines, can have severe side effects affecting the stomach and kidneys and can result in heart attack or stroke. Because these painkillers are so common, doctors sometimes neglect to make their patients aware of how serious of a drug they can be if misused.

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Many risks of anti-depressants are relatively well-known and publicized. One of the most common side effects of anti-depressants occurs when expectant mothers take them. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs) have a very high risk of resulting in birth defects in a newborn, reports the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institute for Health (NIH).

By some estimates, between 20 and 30 percent of newborns who are “exposed to SSRIs towards the end of gestation have disorders such as agitation, abnormal muscle tone and suction, seizures and hypornatraemia.” This research was first made public in late 2005, according to NIH, and immediately pregnant women who were taking SSRIs were advised to seek alternative therapies and, in some cases, even encouraged to reevaluate the diagnosis.

And yet birth defects, while perhaps the best-known side effects of SSRIs, may not be the most severe or serious. According to a publication from the Harvard Medical School, SSRIs can also result in serious physical symptoms ranging from insomnia to stomach issues, skin rashes, and joint or muscle pain. The risk of internal bleeding is approximately the same as it is with NSAIDs, found in common medications such as aspirin and naproxen.

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When the antidepressant drug Paxil hit the consumer market in the early 1990s, it was hailed by the medical world as a wonder drug, able to relieve even the most severe cases of mental depression. Like most other antidepressants, Paxil is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). There have been widely-publicized side effects about SSRIs for the patient who takes them. However, not as much has been published about the effects SSRIs can have on babies born to women who are taking them.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the first such warning was in fact issued as early as 2005, when the FDA advised the medical community to discontinue the practice of prescribing Paxil to pregnant women. In 2005, however, the FDA maintained that women who were already on Paxil may face a greater risk to the fetus by discontinuing the medication than by continuing to take it.

This has changed. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the risk of taking SSRIs during pregnancy could be far worse for the fetus than the risk of being depressed. Women, reports the The New York Times, go to great lengths to give their baby the best start to life: they often quit smoking, give up drinking, and decline foods like Brie cheese and swordfish. Yet these same women often do not give up SSRIs, “despite an increasing number of studies linking prenatal exposure to birth defects, complications after birth, and even developmental delays and autism.” A recent study out of John Hopkins University found that young boys with autism were more than 30 percent more likely to have been exposed to SSRIs via their mother during prenatal development.

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