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Birth injury fund could provide aid to Maryland families

A bill proposed by Maryland legislators would create a new fund that would help pay medical costs for newborns who suffer from neurological birth injuries. The legislation would require hospitals and clinics that offer obstetrical care to pay into the injury fund every year. Malpractice insurers would also be required to contribute. The money in that fund could help victims' families pay for medical costs, but they could also recover financial damages for lost wages and a variety of other claims. So far, only three other states use this model to compensate victims of birth injury.

Critics say they believe the measure would allow physicians and hospitals to avoid consequences for their negligent medical decisions. Attorneys and patients' rights advocates explain that physicians could more effectively cut their malpractice costs by investing in improved care and birth injury prevention strategies. Sponsors say that physicians could benefit from the reduced financial pressure that would come along with lower malpractice insurance costs. Obstetrics is a notoriously expensive practice to insure.

The malpractice insurance debate has resurfaced after several years of dormancy. Recent cases involving birth injury medical malpractice include the $55 million award paid by Johns Hopkins after a couple's son was determined to suffer from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, an ailment that causes cognitive disabilities. They alleged that the baby had suffered oxygen deprivation because of a delayed Cesarean section. Several other court actions led to that judgment being first lowered and then thrown out altogether. A retrial in the case is pending. Another recent jury award resulted in a $21 million judgment for a family whose son had been born with cerebral palsy, reportedly because of doctor error.

Parents whose children have been victimized by errors during labor may benefit from consulting a Maryland attorney. With a renewed focus on these malpractice issues, parents may be entitled to financial compensation and other benefits because of medical malpractice claims. An attorney may be able to answer questions about legal options.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Maryland bill would create birth injury fund" Andrea K. Walker, Feb. 10, 2014

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