Several new Pennsylvania parents awoke to their worst nightmare in September – their newborn infant died as the result of infected breast milk. In the story that is making headlines, parents learned from Pennsylvania hospital staff that their newborn babies were exposed to bacteria that spread while preparing donor breast milk. Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, learned of the infection – pseudomonas bacteria – in July. Since then, three infants have died, and five others fell ill over two months. All of the babies were born prematurely and needed donor breast milk to receive the nutrients necessary for them to get strong and healthy.
Cases like this one are unfortunately common in the United States. Medical negligence kills an estimated 250,000 to 440,000 people every single year in our country alone. The sad part? The majority of illnesses, injuries, and deaths caused by medical malpractice are preventable. At Wormington & Bollinger, our lawyers understand how devastating these types of cases can be. We will work alongside you to ensure you know your rights and receive compensation for your damages. While we cannot bring back your lost loved one, we can make sure justice is served, and those responsible are held accountable.
Geisinger executive vice president Edward Hartle has been forthcoming with details regarding the case, stating that the “exposure came from equipment used to measure breast milk.” And while the hospital has since changed the process that resulted in the compromised breast milk, it does not bring back those three newborns. Before the first reported illness, the hospital had no cases of infants becoming ill, and there have been no reported cases since the change on September 30.
Pseudomonas bacteria are quite common and usually harmless; however, it can pose a significant health risk to weak patients, such as premature babies.
Since the story broke, investigators have found that the Geisinger staff was “negligent both in cleaning its equipment and taking steps to save lives once red flags surfaced.” Better training and smarter practices could have prevented all three deaths and additional illnesses. The new system implements single-use, sterilized measurement materials, ensuring accuracy, and reducing the chance of cross-contamination. As of today, the hospital is facing numerous lawsuits for medical malpractice and wrongful death. They have also been sending premature babies to other area hospitals to receive care while the investigation continues.
Hartle’s full statement reads: “We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected by this incident. We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it.”
While the hospital appears to be remorseful and is doing everything it can to correct the issue, it never should’ve happened in the first place.
Infant Medical Malpractice
Anytime you go to the doctor or hospital, you assume you will receive the highest standard of care. We entrust our health and lives with these trained medical professionals. Unfortunately, medical errors and negligence are all-too-common, even affecting infants. According to several studies, the U.S. has the third-highest post-neonatal mortality rate and the highest infant mortality rate. Nearly 30,000 babies die every single year as a result of birth injuries or negligence after birth.
Some of the most common conditions that occur as a result of birth injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Birth asphyxia
- Developmental problems
- Brain bleeds
Often, birth injuries happen because of negligent pre or postnatal care, as is the case with the Pennsylvania case we’ve been discussing today. The nurses, doctors, and other staff members charged with their responsibility before, during, and after labor must meet this duty of care. When they do not, it puts the mother and newborn child in danger.
Understanding Your Rights Following Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice comes in many different shapes and forms. It can happen to anyone, anytime. The last thing any new parents should have to deal with is bringing suit against the hospital for medical negligence or malpractice. Individuals who have suffered an injury because of a medical error are likely wondering what their rights are.
Can you sue for medical malpractice?
The short answer here is yes. However, it is much more complicated than that. To prove that a medical professional acted negligently or that malpractice occurred, you must be able to show the following:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship in place
- The doctor, nurse, or other medical personnel acting negligently (you cannot sue simply because you were not happy with the treatment you received)
- This negligence is what caused the injury
- The injury led to damages, such as:
- Physical pain or discomfort
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Loss of wages
If you can prove the above, you may have a medical malpractice lawsuit on your hands, and it’s time to contact an experienced attorney.
Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include:
- Prescription errors
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
- The improper or wrong treatment
- Failure to warn patient of potential side effects or risks
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to obtain consent
- Dosage errors
- Inadequate training
- Not enough staff members
These are just several common examples of medical malpractice. If you have been the victim of a doctor’s negligence or misstep, please contact Wormington & Bollinger today. Our experienced McKinney medical malpractice attorneys have the experience necessary to defend you and ensure justice is served. Unfortunately, cases like the one we’ve been discussing today happen more often than most people realize. The key to stopping medical errors and preventable deaths is education and advocacy. We must hold those responsible accountable for changing unsafe processes; such was the case with Geisinger’s donor breast milk procedure. To learn more, contact Wormington & Bollinger today and schedule a free consultation.