Labor, delivery, and the days that follow are a critical time in a baby’s life. What doctors and hospitals do – or don’t do – during this time can have lifelong consequences for children and their families. This includes promptly diagnosing and treating conditions that threaten a baby’s health and development. Metabolic disorders in newborns – sometimes called “inborn errors of metabolism” – are just such conditions. When metabolic disorders are identified and addressed quickly, the baby usually can be spared injury. When not caught in time, however, permanent disabilities often result.
Fortunately, administering a simple blood test – newborn metabolic screening – shortly after birth can catch these disorders and allow doctors to take immediate action to prevent injury and damage. Unfortunately, despite this simple way to identify metabolic disorders, many doctors fail to administer the appropriate test or take other steps to identify and treat an affected child. This can leave families reeling, wondering what went wrong, and worrying about a suddenly dimmer future for their child.
If your baby suffered a serious injury because doctors did not diagnose a metabolic disorder – or if doctors improperly or inadequately treated your child after diagnosis – you may have a medical malpractice claim for compensation that can provide lifetime financial support.
At Berman & Simmons, we work with families living through the trauma of realizing that their child’s metabolic disorder and the challenges that follow resulted from preventable medical errors by doctors, nurses, or other healthcare providers. In scores of cases, our birth injury lawyers have recovered significant compensation for the families of children who needlessly suffer due to medical negligence.
What Are Newborn Metabolic Disorders and Why Are They So Harmful?
Our bodies must absorb and process the nutrients in the foods we eat for our bodies to function correctly. This is especially critical for infants and toddlers whose ongoing development hinges on getting a sufficient supply of nutrients and breaking them down to fuel their bodies.
Metabolic disorders interfere with this essential process, preventing a baby from properly breaking down protein, carbohydrates, and fats. While they are not getting the nutrition their bodies need, metabolic disorders block the breakdown pathways of these substances, causing a buildup of toxic intermediate metabolites. If this buildup is not caught and relieved quickly, it can cause brain damage, harm other organs, or ultimately result in the child’s death.
Types of Newborn Metabolic Disorders
There are several different newborn metabolic disorders, including:
Galactosemia is a metabolic disorder that makes a baby unable to process milk. It can cause liver damage and death from sepsis.
Lysosomal Storage Disorders
Lysosomal storage disorders are inherited metabolic diseases characterized by an abnormal buildup of toxic materials in the baby’s lysosomes due to enzyme deficiencies. This buildup can damage the heart or liver and lead to stroke or nerve damage. There are nearly 50 types of these disorders, including:
- Fabry disease.
- Gaucher disease.
- Krabbe disease.
- Hurler syndrome.
- Tay-Sachs disease.
- Niemann-Pick disease.
Maple Syrup Urine Disease
With maple syrup urine disease, the baby’s urine smells like maple syrup due to an enzyme deficiency that causes a buildup of amino acids, particularly leucine. This buildup can cause brain damage if left untreated.
Metal Metabolism Disorders, Such as Wilson’s Disease
Metal metabolism disorders cause an excessive amount of metals to build up in the body. One such metal metabolism disorder is hemochromatosis, which leads to too much iron in the child’s body, causing liver damage. Babies with Wilson’s disease accumulate toxic levels of copper in the body, which can damage their brains and livers.
Infants with phenylketonuria, or PKU, have an enzyme deficiency that can cause cognitive impairments or developmental disabilities.
Other Fatty Acid Oxidation or Urine Organic Acid Disorders
Diseases like glutaric aciduria type 1 (GA 1), isovaleric acidemia (IVA) and medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCAD Deficiency) are very treatable. Anytime a child with such a disorder is seriously injured, there should be a careful investigation of what happened to be sure the cause was not medical malpractice.
Symptoms of Newborn Metabolic Disorders
When doctors fail to diagnose or treat a metabolic disorder in a newborn shortly after birth, parents can go home with their child, not knowing they suffer from a serious medical condition. Symptoms may develop as soon as a few days after birth and may be aggravated by minor illnesses, eating certain foods, dehydration, or medications.
Common symptoms of newborn metabolic disorders include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Developmental delay.
- Poor appetite.
- Failure to thrive.
- Acidosis in the blood.
- High ammonia in the blood.
- Large quantities of Ketones in the urine.
Failure to Timely Diagnose Newborn Metabolic Disorders in the Neonatal Period Can Be Medical Malpractice
While symptoms of a newborn metabolic disorder may not manifest until several days after the child’s birth, doctors and hospitals can identify the condition shortly after delivery by administering a simple blood test or by providing the correct diagnostic testing. Damages recoverable in a birth injury lawsuit arising from an undiagnosed and untreated newborn metabolic disorder include:
- Past and future medical expenses for your child’s care.
- Ongoing rehabilitation, therapy, or special education costs.
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to your child’s condition.
- Your child’s pain and suffering.
- Disability damages.
- Other damages.
Berman & Simmons: Maine’s Premier Birth Injury Law Firm
No other law firm in Maine can match the skill, experience, and tenacity of Berman & Simmons’ attorneys in birth injury and medical malpractice cases, including those arising from undiagnosed or untreated newborn metabolic disorders. We are widely recognized as the best personal injury lawyers in Maine and among the best in the U.S. and have recovered over $1 billion for our injured clients.
If your child has a metabolic disorder you believe doctors failed to identify and treat, please contact Berman & Simmons to arrange your free initial consultation.
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What do I prepare for the first call or meeting with you?
For your first meeting with us, simply tell us your story and explain in your own words what happened and how your life has been affected. If you’re meeting with us in person, you can bring notes about what happened to you, driver insurance information, names of any witnesses, photos of the accident damages or injuries, medical records, and other related paperwork if you have it and if it’s applicable, but that information isn’t necessary. Really all you need to do is be yourself, speak with us honestly, and be willing to tackle your problems with us.
Initial conversations between potential clients and our staff members are often done over the phone. Rest assured that everything we discuss is confidential and protected under law.
How much will a lawyer cost me?
The lawyers at Berman & Simmons work on a contingency basis. That means you pay nothing up front and nothing unless we settle or win your case. We will consult with you, evaluate your situation, and do initial research free of charge. This is true even if we decide you don’t have a valid claim. We will also cover all necessary case expenses and you will not be obligated to reimburse us until and unless we recover monies on your behalf. if we do take your case and win a settlement or a jury verdict in your favor, a percentage of the compensation goes to pay for our costs and the work done by our legal team.
How will I know if I have a case?
To pursue a case, we will need to prove that you suffered a substantial personal injury and the injury was directly caused by the negligence of another party. A bad result alone is not enough to establish negligence. We let you know upfront if we are able to move forward with the legal process, or if we don’t think you have a case. Generally, we will know if you have a case after our first phone call or meeting.
If we believe you have a valid claim and decide to move forward with litigation, our attorneys and staff will then take it from there and do everything else that needs to be done, including obtaining and reviewing records relevant to your case, such as accident reports and other law enforcement documents, employer records, medical records, and other information.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
Every case is different, and there is no way to predict how long it will take for your case to be resolved. Some cases end in a matter of months, while the most complex and challenging cases, such as a medical malpractice case, can span several years. The vast majority of cases, however, are resolved before a trial and usually within a year.
The goal is to make sure you receive fair compensation for your injuries, no matter how long it takes whether that comes in the form of a pre-trial settlement, or with a jury verdict in your favor.
How much is my case worth?
There are many factors that need to be considered when determining the value of your case. Every case is unique and it takes a team effort — including your attorney, staff researchers, and outside experts — to determine the extent of your damages and how much your case is worth. There are two types of damages for which you could receive
compensation: Economic and non-economic.
If your case goes to trial and a jury agrees you deserve compensation, the jury members will decide how much the money you should receive for each category of damages.