Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Lawyers Representing the Black Community

HIE occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen, causing brain cells to be injured. While some cells may recover, others may die and become permanently lost. HIE is estimated to occur between 2 to 9 per 1,0000 births, and can cause severe outcomes for the infant. In one study, almost half of newborns with HIE suffered fatalities, or had a major neurodevelopmental disability later in life. 

HIE can occur during any birth, but some studies point to data that shows an over representation of Black infants being diagnosed with HIE. Doctors are often under pressure to keep their hospitals cesarean section numbers low, as cesareans are more expensive than vaginal births. In their rush to have a mother deliver vaginally, they may ignore the best interest of the mother and baby, causing prolonged labor with an overuse of pitocin that can cause asphyxiation of the infant, leading to HIE.

What Is HIE?

HIE stands for:

  • Hypoxic: Lack of oxygen
  • Ischemic: Restricted blood flow 
  • Encephalopathy: Affecting the brain

A hypoxic event is one in which the brain experienced a partial lack of oxygen for a period of time. The brain is highly sensitive to hypoxia and permanent brain injury can occur within minutes of a hypoxic event without swift intervention.

HIE can cause a variety of impairments, including:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Seizure disorders
  • Speech and hearing problems
  • Visual impairments
  • Learning disabilities

What Causes HIE?

HIE can be caused by a variety of factors. The most significant risk factor is asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen. This can be caused by: 

How Medical Negligence Can Cause HIE

Doctors should immediately check for HIE by using an MRI under the following circumstances:

  • Traumatic birth
  • Suspicion of fetal stroke
  • Organ dysfunction after birth
  • Seizures in the first 24 hours after birth.

If a doctor does not immediately investigate for HIE, the delay in diagnosis can cause countless issues in the future, and is cause to suspect medical malpractice.

Far too many infants suffer HIE as a result of asphyxia caused by an overuse of Pitocin during labor. Pitocin can help speed up labor, but can also cause hyperstimulation of the uterus, preventing the placenta from recharging its supply of blood and oxygen for the fetus. Doctors who do not actively monitor the dosage of pitocin, or fail to perform proper fetal monitoring during labor and delivery may be held liable for a diagnosis of HIE. 

When to Consult with a Lawyer Experienced in Discrimination

Treatment for HIE can be complicated, as the need for medical or rehabilitative assistance may be ongoing throughout the patient’s lifetime. Receiving a diagnosis of HIE is often very traumatic for a family, and this trauma can be compounded if you are Black mother who believes that her medical care was substandard due to racial 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 Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man recently shot and killed while jogging in Georgia. 

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.

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