Fetal demise or newborn death during or shortly following delivery is a profoundly tragic event, often resulting in deep emotional and psychological impacts on the parents. Understanding the warning signs of fetal distress, the potential dangers, and the causes is crucial in improving outcomes and advocating for the unborn child’s well-being. Additionally, having dedicated health providers focused on the infant during delivery can significantly enhance care and reduce the risk of adverse outcomes.

Importance of Staff & Care Protocols in Preventing Newborn Death

Ensuring hospitals adhere to proper protocols in staffing and medical care during labor and in the care of an infant during and immediately following birth is critical for the health and safety of both mother and child. Proper staffing means having a sufficient number of trained medical professionals, including obstetricians, midwives, pediatricians, and nurses, who are equipped to handle the complexities of childbirth. Adhering to established protocols ensures that every aspect of the birthing process is managed according to the highest standards of medical care, minimizing risks and enhancing outcomes. When hospitals prioritize these elements, they provide a safe and supportive environment, leading to healthier mothers and babies.

Failure to Adhere to Proper Protocols Puts Infant Lives in Jeopardy

A recent article published in The Morning Call, a Lehigh Valley newspaper, reported that “a baby born at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton suffered a collapsed lung and died shortly after birth. About seven months later, another newborn died under similar circumstances.” According to the article, “These two incidents at LVH-Hazleton were the subject of an inspection by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in January, which found numerous deficiencies and violations of federal and state regulations. Specifically, state investigators found that the hospital failed on multiple occasions to ensure that on-call-pediatricians arrived at the hospital in 30 minutes or less.”

Adequate Healthcare Staffing is Vital During Labor & Delivery

As evidenced by the state inspection mentioned above, adequately trained staff during labor and delivery is crucial. Each professional plays a vital role. It is also essential that a skilled pediatrician be on hand to provide immediate care for a newborn. Potential issues like fetal distress, preeclampsia, or unexpected delivery complications can be promptly addressed when proper protocols are followed. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that any complications are swiftly and effectively managed, reducing the likelihood of adverse outcomes such as emergency C-sections or prolonged labor, which can increase risks for both the mother and the baby.

Inadequate staffing or failure to follow protocols can lead to dire consequences. For example, without a sufficient number of trained professionals, signs of distress in the mother or baby might be missed or misinterpreted, leading to delayed or inappropriate interventions. This can result in complications such as hypoxia, where the baby does not receive enough oxygen, potentially causing brain damage or even stillbirth. For the mother, lack of proper care can lead to severe hemorrhaging or untreated preeclampsia, both of which can be life-threatening unless promptly addressed. These outcomes underline the necessity for hospitals to maintain rigorous standards in their staffing and procedural protocols.

Immediate Post-Birth Infant Care is Critical

The immediate care of an infant post-birth is equally crucial. Proper protocols include ensuring the baby can breathe adequately, maintain body temperature, and initiate breastfeeding. Pediatricians and nurses must be vigilant in monitoring vital signs and responding to any signs of distress or abnormality. Proper protocol also involves the timely administration of necessary medications and conducting essential screenings. Failure to follow these procedures may cause complications such as neonatal jaundice, infections, or respiratory issues, which, if not managed promptly, can have long-term health implications.

Ultimately, the importance of hospitals following proper protocols in staffing and medical care during labor and the immediate care of infants cannot be overstated. It is a matter of life and health for both mother and child. Hospitals must commit to rigorous training, maintaining adequate staff levels, and adhering to evidence-based protocols to ensure the best possible outcomes. When these standards are met, the risks of complications or infant death are significantly reduced, leading to safer deliveries and healthier futures for newborns.

Warning Signs of Fetal Distress

Fetal distress refers to indications before and during childbirth that the fetus is not well. Some common warning signs include:

  1. Decreased Fetal Movement: A significant decrease in the baby’s movements might indicate distress.
  2. Abnormal Heart Rate: A fetal heart rate outside the normal range (110-160 beats per minute) can signify problems.
  3. Meconium in Amniotic Fluid: The presence of meconium (the baby’s first stool) in the amniotic fluid can indicate fetal stress.
  4. Fetal Growth Restriction: A very tiny baby.
  5. Abnormal Amniotic Fluid Levels: Too much or too little amniotic fluid can be a warning sign. 

Advocating for Your Unborn Baby

Advocacy for an unborn baby begins with being well-informed and proactive. Here are steps parents can take to advocate effectively:

  1. Educate Yourself: Understanding the risk factors and warning signs of fetal distress is essential.
  2. Prenatal Visits: Regular check-ups allow healthcare providers to monitor the baby’s development and identify potential issues early.
  3. Birth Plan: Create a detailed birth plan outlining your preferences and concerns and discuss it with your healthcare provider.
  4. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to speak to your healthcare provider about any concerns or symptoms you experience.
  5. Monitor Fetal Movements: Monitor your baby’s movements, especially in the third trimester, and report any significant changes to your healthcare provider immediately. 

Importance of Dedicated Health Providers in Preventing Newborn Death

The presence of a health provider focused solely on the infant during delivery is crucial. This professional, often a neonatal nurse or neonatologist, can provide immediate and specialized care to the newborn, addressing any complications promptly. Their roles include:

  1. Monitoring Fetal Heart Rate: Continuously monitoring the baby’s heart rate during labor to detect any signs of distress.
  2. Immediate Response to Complications: Being prepared to handle emergencies, such as respiratory distress or meconium aspiration.
  3. Newborn Resuscitation: Skilled in neonatal resuscitation techniques if the baby has difficulty breathing at birth.
  4. Postnatal Care: Providing necessary care immediately after birth, including assessments and interventions to ensure the baby’s health. 

When Medical Negligence Ends in Tragedy

The death of an infant during or shortly after delivery is a heartbreaking event with various causes and risk factors. By recognizing the warning signs of fetal distress and advocating effectively for their unborn child, parents can play a pivotal role in ensuring the best possible outcomes. Furthermore, the presence of dedicated healthcare providers focused on the infant during delivery can make a significant difference, providing specialized care that addresses any complications promptly.

If your family has suffered an unexpected newborn death as the result of the negligence of a healthcare provider, our infant wrongful death attorneys will advocate for your rights and help you get the justice you deserve. The birth injury lawyers at DKY Law are highly experienced in cases involving infants who have sustained injuries or died due to medical malpractice before, during, and after delivery.

“Our son suffered HIE, a very serious birth injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain,” commented a DKY Law birth injury client. “This injury left him with the need for a lifetime of medical and other special care. We met with Mike Kowalski and immediately felt comfortable and confident that Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen was going to do their absolute best for our son. Although the damage to our son can never be undone, when Mike Kowalski successfully settled the case, we gained the peace of mind in knowing that all of our son’s special needs will be met and that he will receive the best care possible.”

Contact the DKY Birth Injury Law Firm

Contact a dedicated Distasio Kowalski & Yelen birth injury and wrongful death lawyer in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania today for a confidential case evaluation.  Link to contact We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.

Michael J. Kowalski, a partner with DKY Law Firm, has been representing individuals and their families in personal injury matters for 30 years. These include cases involving medical malpractice, medical errors, birth injuries, and auto and truck accidents, among others. If you are injured, you want Attorney Kowalski and the DKY Law Firm fighting for you. Contact Attorney Kowalski today.



Jeffrey A. Yelen, a partner with DKY Law Firm, is an Elder Law Attorney who brings 25 years of estate planning, probate and estate litigation experience to the clients he serves. He is head of the firm’s Elder Law and Estate Services division and is highly experienced in Wills, Estates, and Trusts.  When you are searching for an Elder Law Lawyer, Attorney Yelen can provide the skilled legal representation you and your family need. Contact Attorney Yelen

A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of medical care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins medicine said that medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Hard to imagine, we know.  Highlighted by the report was a failure to accurately track vital statistics, which hindered research on the subject and more accurate reporting. Researchers called for more detailed coding on death certificates. The hope is to more accurately capture if a medical error is the cause.

This lack of detailed accounting on both injuries and fatalities as a result of medical error and medical mistakes, has led to this very real problem not getting the focus it deserves. Patient safety needs to be a top priority of our healthcare system and legislatures. No one expects to seek medical attention and experience further harm as a result. A sad fact is that it can and does happen. Read on to learn about many types of medical errors that can occur.

Common medical errors

  • Misdiagnosis – An error in diagnosis or delayed diagnosis is the most common type of medical error. Often, a speedy and accurate diagnosis is
    Physicians performing surgery

    essential in starting a proper course of treatment. A wrong diagnosis can cause a dangerous and sometimes fatal delay in treatment.

  • Surgical errors – We’ve all heard horror stories of wrong site surgeries, or even of surgeons operating on the wrong patient. There are many surgical errors that are a result of medical negligence. An example of this is leaving objects, such as surgical sponges or even medical instruments inside a patient’s body after surgery. Puncturing an organ or causing an infection due to a surgical error are other problems that can lead to serious injury, as is failing to properly monitor vital signs. Surgical errors can lead to a devastating outcome for a patient.
  • Anesthesia errors – One of the most serious medical malpractice injuries can come from a negligent anesthesia error. This can sometimes result in brain damage, coma or death before action can be taken. More specifically, anesthesia errors can result in stroke, heart attack, asphyxia, brain injury, birth defects and many more injuries. Giving the wrong dosage of anesthesia, failing to monitor the patient properly, failing to properly administer oxygen or failing to recognize complications are just a few of the anesthesia errors that occur.
  • Medication errors – Medication and other prescription errors can occur at many different stages in the medication prescribing and dispensing process. For instance, an error could be made in ordering or prescribing or in entering the information into a computer. Medication mistakes can also happen when the drug is dispensed or administered or in monitoring the patient. According to the FDA, they receive more than 100,000 reports in the U.S. each year associated with a suspected medication error. Medication errors could result in a variety of injuries from birth defects to adverse reaction, life threatening conditions, disability and even fatality.
  • Errors due to lack of communication – Medical errors and injury may result from the lack of proper communication and coordination between healthcare providers. It can also be a result of lack of communication between a doctor and a patient. Good communication is essential between all parties involved in medical treatment. This is a very preventable medical error that can lead to serious harm.
  • Failure to properly monitor a patient – Failure to monitor could lead to missed medical warning signs. This may result in valuable time lost in properly treating a patient. It may even result in irreversible injury. Monitoring is essential in medical care.
  • Lab errors – Failure to properly read test results can lead to a wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment. This can lead to a dangerous delay in properly treating a medical condition. Errors in testing, reading tests and in communicating results can all cause harm.
  • Medical equipment malfunction – Medical equipment that is not kept in good working order can cause serious harm or possibly death. An example of this might include a case of a malfunctioning defibrillator.
  • Blood transfusions errors – Blood transfusions are high-risk procedures. Errors can occur during the transfusion process. They can occur when identifying a patient, in blood typing, in failing to test for contamination in blood or in failing to recognize a blood transfusion reaction.
  • Birth injuries as a result of medical errors – Every year, tens of thousands of birth injuries occur in the U.S. Birth injuries can include traumatic brain injury or other brain injuries and oxygen deprivation among other errors. A failure to anticipate complications or to diagnose an ailment could be life threatening. Birth injuries that can be caused by medical errors include Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE. Cerebral Palsy, and Erb’s Palsy/Shoulder Dystocia are other examples of birth injuries. Medical errors resulting in birth injuries can include a failure to detect fetal distress or a delayed cesarean section. They can also include a delay in diagnosis or the improper use of birthing tools among other errors. Birth errors can have a lifelong impact on children and families.

How can patients better protect themselves from certain medical errors?

The sad truth is that many medical errors are often preventable. Medical mistakes are frequently the result of carelessness on the part of a doctor or another medical professional or healthcare provider. Here are five ways you can protect yourself. 

  1. Be assertive and ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask. You will want to know the risks and disadvantages of various procedures, side effects of medication and other treatments, etc..
  2. Bring along an advocate – It sometimes gets confusing, and having a family member or friend with you at an appointment can help.
  3. Watch for signs of medical staff fatigue in an understaffed health care facility.
  4. Make sure all medical providers know all of the medication you are taking. Alert them to medication allergies and reactions as well.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Medical Malpractice

When errors are made in the medical profession, they can result in serious and sometimes fatal consequences. For medical malpractice to be considered in a case, the following must have occurred: harm was suffered by a patient as the result of a medical professional failing to provide a standard of care that other medical professionals would have provided under the same circumstances. If you believe you have been injured by a medical error, it’s important to act quickly to protect your legal rights. Speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can evaluate the circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable medical injury lawyer can tell you if you have a medical malpractice case.

Click to read more from Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen medical injury lawyers about medical malpractice, medical misdiagnosis, or birth injuries.

Read more blogs on the topic of medical errors

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Understanding the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect




It’s usually one of the happiest times of a couple’s lives. Expectant parents anxiously preparing and awaiting the birth of a new baby. Tragically, excitement can quickly turn to heartbreak for parents when something goes wrong and an infant is born injured or suffering in some way. It’s an important time to be sure you understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. While this is a confusing time for new parents, filled with a mix of emotions, it is important to determine the cause of your baby’s suffering. Knowing the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect can be very important in determining if there was any medical negligence involved in harm caused to your baby. If there was negligence or a medical error, you may be eligible for compensation for those injuries and for ongoing medical treatment for your newborn.

What is a birth injury?

Birth injuries usually happen during or immediately after the labor and delivery process. Injuries could possibly result from excessive force or trauma during delivery. Birth injury may also result from failure to monitor the baby for fetal distress or from other medical errors or substandard care during or after the birthing process. This can include misdiagnoses or failure to diagnose potential complications during pregnancy and delivery. It may also include delayed C-section and mistakes involving forceps, vacuum or other birthing tools, among other medical errors. Unlike birth defects, birth injuries are preventable in many cases, depending on the circumstances. Right Diagnosis from healthgrades reported that 7 out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are born with birth injuries each year.

Some examples of birth injuries include:

  • Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Erb’s Palsy
  • Brain damage
  • Head trauma
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis
  • Fractures

What is a birth defect?

Birth defects occur as a baby is still developing in the mother’s womb. That’s a main difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. Birth defects are medical conditions or abnormalities that could occur as a result of a variety of causes. This can include certain genetics, infections, exposure to chemicals or drugs, or possibly unhealthy lifestyle choice. Birth defects can have serious and lasting effects on a child.

Examples of birth defects can include disorders such as brain damage, Down syndrome, spina bifida, congenital heart defect, cleft lip or palate, limb or cranial abnormalities, and metabolic disorders. The CDC estimates that birth defects affect one in every 33 babies. This is about 3 percent of all of the babies born in the United Sates each year.

What to do when your infant suffers a birth injury

Sadly, birth injuries are far too common and can mean life-long health consequences for your child. Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen personal injury attorneys see the tragic effects that medical errors have on the lives of families in our area. Bringing a child into the world should be a joyous event. It should not be marred by substandard medical care. Doctor’s and other healthcare providers have a “duty of care” to uphold when treating patients. If they fail to provide that established standard of care, they can be held liable for injuries that occur. It’s time to call an injury attorney.

Getting legal help for birth injuries

We hope this helps you to better understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. If you suspect that your newborn may have been injured as the result of medical negligence or a medical error, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. Although you are emotional and overwhelmed when you are dealing with a seriously injured child, you owe it to yourself and your family to determine the cause of the injuries. You want to hold the responsible party accountable. You also want to ensure that the long-term medical and emotional needs of your child are met. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assess your situation and help you explore your legal options.

Medical negligence can lead to birth injury or the death of a child. A birth injury can affect the quality of life of a child, as well as an entire family, resulting in a lifetime of medical treatment and financial hardship. It’s imperative that an experienced birth injury attorney determines if your child is suffering from a preventable birth injury or unavoidable birth defect.

Statute of limitations for birth injury cases in Pennsylvania

The statute of limitations is a time period in which you can legally file your birth injury claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice suit is two years. However, when the patient is a minor, the Minor’s Tolling Statute allows for added time if the patient is under the age of 18. The two-year time limit would begin to run on the child’s 18th birthday.

For more information on your legal options in a birth injury case, contact the Wilkes-Barre personal injury lawyers at Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen toll free at 855-970-5400.