Birth Defects: When Are They Considered Medical Malpractice?

By November 7, 2022

newborn with bilateral club footBirth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Medical malpractice lawyers in New York handle many cases yearly in which families believe their child’s birth defect was caused by medical negligence. But what exactly is considered medical malpractice concerning New York birth defects?

Birth Defects

Birth defects are physical abnormalities that occur in a baby during development. They can range from mild to severe and can affect any body part. Some common defects include heart defects, cleft palate, clubfoot, and Down syndrome.

There are many different causes of birth defects, including genes, environment, and health problems of the mother. But in some cases, defects may be caused by medical negligence. For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose a health problem that leads to birth defects or if a doctor performs a procedure incorrectly and it causes harm to the baby, that may be considered medical malpractice.

Classifications of Birth Defects

There are two main classifications of birth defects:

  • Structural defects are physical abnormalities in the structure of the body.
  • Functional defects are problems with how the body works or develops.

For example, a heart defect would be considered a structural defect, while a functional defect might be something like diabetes.

Birth Defects Due to Medical Malpractice

A birth defect might be considered medical malpractice if a doctor’s negligence caused it. To prove medical malpractice, you will need to show that the doctor:

  • Had a duty to care for you or your child
  • Breached that duty (for example, by failing to diagnose a health problem)
  • Caused an injury
  • As a result of the breach, you or your child suffered an injury (such as a birth defect)

There are many different types of medical malpractice cases involving birth defects. Some common examples include:

  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a health problem that leads to birth defects
  • Incorrectly performed procedures that cause harm to the baby
  • Failure to provide proper care during pregnancy or delivery leads to defects

Common Birth Defects Due to Medical Malpractice

Many different types of birth defects may be caused by medical malpractice. Some common examples include

Cleft Palate

This birth defect occurs when the roof of the mouth does not form properly. It can cause problems with eating, speaking, and hearing.

Heart Defects

These defects occur when there is a problem with the heart or blood vessels. They can range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening.

Down Syndrome

This is a genetic condition that causes developmental delays and physical abnormalities. This case usually applies when the health professional makes an inadequate diagnosis of the child.

Spina Bifida

This birth defect occurs when the spinal cord does not develop properly. It can cause paralysis and other problems.

Effects of Birth Defects

Defects can cause a wide range of problems, from mild to severe. Some common consequences include

  • Developmental delays: such as delays in learning to walk or talk
  • Physical abnormalities: such as cleft palate or spina bifida
  • Intellectual disabilities: such as Down syndrome
  • Behavioral problems: such as ADHD
  • Health problems: such as heart defects or diabetes
  • Emotional problems: such as anxiety or depression

The severity of the consequences will depend on the type and severity of the birth defect. In some cases, birth defects can be life-threatening. For example, heart defects can cause heart failure, and spina bifida can lead to paralysis.


Treatments for birth defects will depend on the type and severity of the condition. Some defects can be treated with surgery, while others may require medication or therapy. For example, a cleft palate can be corrected with surgery, and some heart defects can be treated with medication or surgery.

Filing a Claim for a Birth Defect Medical Malpractice

When it comes to getting compensation for medical malpractice, an experienced medical negligence lawyer can help. A hospital injury lawyer will be able to:

Investigate your case: This includes reviewing your medical records and speaking to expert witnesses.

Build a strong case: This involves collecting evidence and ensuring all deadlines are met.

Handle negotiations: If the case goes to trial, an attorney can represent you in court.

Get you the compensation you deserve: If you are awarded damages, an attorney can help you get the money you need to pay for treatment, lost wages, and other expenses.

Medical malpractice cases can be complex. If you or your child has been harmed by medical negligence, speaking to an experienced attorney is essential.

Contact a New York birth injury lawyer at Poissant, Nichols, Grue, Vanier & Babbie today for a consultation.

All initial personal injury consultations are free. Contact our office regarding any matter at any time.

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