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Researchers search for answers in string of fatal birth defects

Although rare, a fatal birth condition called anencephaly has drawn the attention of researchers. The reason: 23 cases of the condition were diagnosed in the same geographic region within a three-year period. That translates into an incidence rate that is four times greater than the national average of just 2.1 cases for every 10,000 live births.

The condition is believed to result when the neural tube in a developing embryo fails to close. Without that closure, the brain and spinal cord cannot properly form. The cause of this condition is unknown, although a mother’s diet and vitamin consumption may be factors that play a role. For example, a recent study indicates that folic acid, or vitamin B9, may significantly reduce the risk.

A condition like anencephaly may manifest well before a baby’s birth. However, a doctor’s duty of care begins before the date of delivery. Throughout a pregnancy, a doctor has an obligation to perform tests that are in accordance with the applicable standard of care. A doctor must also advise a patient about recommended health practices.

If a doctor did not provide a professional level of care, any resulting birth injury may give rise to a medical malpractice claim. For example, a doctor’s failure to timely diagnose a fetal condition could give rise to such a lawsuit. However, determining causation in a birth injury case may require the investigative assistance of an experienced trial attorney.

Birth injury litigation can be complex, involving medical terms and expert testimony.  An attorney that specializes in medical malpractice claims likely has a network of medical professionals to assist in that investigation.

Source:  CNN, “Mysterious cluster of birth defects stumps doctors,” Elizabeth Cohen, March 1, 2014