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Births in the gray zone present huge challenges for parents

Life is such a precious commodity. Is it any wonder then that when mistakes during delivery cause injuries that erode the life possibilities of a child, there is a desire to hold someone responsible? Proving the case isn’t always easy, however. Consulting an attorney is always recommended in order to assess if there’s a case to be made.

In a blog entry earlier this month, we examined how advancements in medicine have pushed views of fetal viability to as early as 23 weeks. The big question that many parents then face with when an extremely early delivery looms is whether to approve extreme lifesaving measures.

As that post observed, the answer is not black and white. It is really more of a gray zone. Intervention may allow the infant to survive, but risks of developmental problems, cerebral palsy and behavioral issues tend to increase. Doctors aren’t able to say with any certainty what problems will surface or how severe they might be. It’s in that gray area where parents have to make life or death choices and it’s not easy.

As it turns out, there are also shades of gray within the medical community about what the proper standard of care should be if an extremely premature infant is delivered and has to go to the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

Practitioners interviewed for a story in The Bulletin out of Bend, Oregon, note that there’s no consensus among neonatologists at the national or even international level about what basic NICU care should be. As a result, best practices vary from market to market.

Experienced attorneys know that malpractice claims typically depend on being able to show that normal standards of care have not been met. Where no such standard exists, however, a claim may be difficult to sustain. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.