Cerebral Palsy Lawyers Representing the Black Community

In the U.S., we’re waking up to more of the ways that racial disparities affect the health of the Black community. And there’s one inequality that affects every single Black person born in this country — the wide gap in the field of maternal healthcare.

The collateral damage of this system-wide failure is often shouldered by the most vulnerable among us. Brachial plexus injuries are just one example — one with life-long consequences.

Source: Wikipedia, shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International license

What Is the Relationship Between Brachial Plexus Injuries and Shoulder Dystocia?

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves connecting the spine to the arms and hands. Injuries to this region are often caused by shoulder dystocia, a complication where the baby’s shoulder gets caught above the mother’s pubic bone after its head has already crowned.

Infants born with such injuries may have lifelong difficulties in using their upper bodies. It’s a fairly common birth injury, occurring in 1–2 out of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. 30 percent of those born with BPIs will go on to have permanent neurological deficits or impairments.

Steps to Preventing Brachial Plexus Injuries

BPIs are tied with several risk factors that attentive doctors should be on the watch for. Some risks, like gestational diabetes, have greater prevalence for Black women. Doctors who take Black mothers’ health seriously should be on heightened watch for: 

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Fetus of 9 pounds or more (macrosomia)
  • Maternal obesity or unusual pre-birth weight gain
  • Small pelvis
  • Previous history of BPI
  • Fetus in breech birth position

BPIs happen during delivery. The attending doctor must assess the evolving risk, and order an emergency C-section if necessary. Conditions that increase this risk include:

  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Prolonged labor
  • Breech birth
  • Slow dilation
  • Baby stuck in birth canal
  • Use of birthing instruments such as forceps

The Health Consequences of Brachial Plexus Injuries

Symptoms of BPI in a newborn can include:

  • Poor movement in the affected arm
  • Absence of reflexes
  • Numbness
  • Claw-like hand
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Horner’s syndrome
  • Klumpke’s palsy 
  • Permanent loss of movement and sensation

How Race Plays a Role

Studies have shown that African-American women with pregnancies complicated by shoulder dystocia give birth to children with BPIs at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. 

A large cohort study in California measured the incidence of BPIs in 24,509 pregnancies from 2007–2011. They found a 6.92 percent rate of BPIs in non-Hispanic Black women whose pregnancies were complicated by shoulder dystocia, compared with a rate of 2.94 percent in their white counterparts. When their respective pregnancies were not complicated by shoulder dystocia, the difference in BPI incidence was negligible.

The logical conclusion seems to point to a huge problem of negligence. Doctors may not be attentive to warning signs and risk factors of this dangerous condition for Black women.

How to Know if Medical Negligence is Responsible for Your Infant’s Injury

Legally speaking, medical negligence involves a breach of care on the part of the attending physician. In cases where BPIs are suffered, this could be reflected in a lack of attention given to BPI risk factors — up to and including their specific risk to Black mothers. 

A delay in ordering a timely C-section or directly causing the injury while delivering the baby could also be termed negligent.

Source: Pxhere.com, shared under a CC0 license

When to Consult with a Lawyer Experienced in Discrimination

Lee Merritt, Esq. is a longtime leader and influential voice in the fight for Social Justice, representing high-profile civil rights cases like that of Jonathan Price, a 31-year-old Black man killed by police while intervening in a domestic dispute.

A dedicated civil rights activist and trial attorney, Mr. Merritt runs a distinguished national practice focusing on victims of police brutality, hate crimes and corporate discrimination. As an activist, he has championed police reform and community empowerment. His office has led the way to reform in Texas, a state notorious for its failure to prosecute police officers, successfully advocating for the first murder indictments of officers in the state in over 40 years.

There are many more battles to fight on behalf of the 22 percent of Black women who report discrimination in their medical care. For a free consultation please fill out our form, write [email protected] or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.

About S. Lee Merritt

Civil Rights Lawyer

Lee Merritt, Esq. is emerging as a leading and influential new voice in the fight for Social Justice. A dedicated civil rights activist and trial attorney, Merritt runs a high profile national practice focusing on victims of police brutality, hate crimes and corporate discrimination. As an activist, he has championed police reform and community empowerment. 

Do you need more information or want to help? 

Our organization can help mothers and their families who have faced medical issues during pregnancy learn about the resources available to them, as well as learn about what action they may be able to take legally due to discriminatory health practices.  Contact us below by email or phone and our team can learn more about your situation and give you free and friendly advice.

Email Address
Call Us

(800) 590-4116

Visit US

123 S. Broad St., Ste. 2250
Philadelphia, PA 19109

Copyright ©1998-2020 McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt. All rights reserved. All materials presented on this site are copyrighted and owned by McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt unless in the public domain or attributed to another source. Any republication, retransmission, reproduction, downloading, storing or distribution of all or part of any materials found on this site is expressly prohibited. Submission and/or contact does not constitute the formation of the attorney client privilege, which is not established until we fully evaluate and affirmatively accept representation in writing.