Illinois parents, like mothers and fathers everywhere, may have had a newborn with a case of jaundice. Although common and easily treatable, the condition can affect the brain if left untreated, as was the case in a recent New York medical malpractice lawsuit. In this case, the baby was discharged from the hospital despite a severe case of jaundice, which ultimately damaged his brain and left him severely handicapped. A jury awarded the now 6-year old boy and his family approximately $25 million as a result of malpractice.
Despite the fact that the boy’s mother alerted the doctor to the continued yellowing of her son’s skin, the baby was improperly released from a New York hospital and was never scheduled for a formal examination or follow-up. The parents were told that the condition would disappear on its own, the lawsuit claimed, even though the child’s eyes continued to yellow.
As the child grew steadily worse, the mother took her son to another hospital where he was then diagnosed with a severe form of jaundice called hyperbilirubinemia, which is an overabundance of the naturally occurring pigment Bilirubin. High bilirubin levels can be treated with light therapy or blood transfusions, but if the substance reaches the brain, severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy may result. As a result, the boy cannot use his arms or legs and requires 24-hour care.
Failure to diagnose an illness like that alleged in this case can worsen an already existing medical condition or lead to death. The U.S. justice system provides a means by which individuals affected by doctor or surgical errors may seek compensation for damages suffered.
Source: New York Daily Post, “Disabled Brooklyn boy awarded $25 million in untreated jaundice case against New York Methodist Hospital“, Doyle Murphy, November 19, 2013