Kernicterus Birth Injury Attorneys Serving 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.

This disparity touches Black women and babies across income and education brackets. When discrimination in medical care can affect someone like Serena Williams — the one-time best tennis player in the world, who encountered medical negligence after her child was born — it’s a warning that this can touch anyone.

Kernicterus and severe hyperbilirubinemia, life-threatening conditions caused by undiagnosed jaundice, are just one more instance where racial disparities rear their ugly head. If you or a loved one has been touched by preventable tragedy, please get in touch. No one can take back the harm caused by medical negligence, but getting justice is a step towards easing the pain. 

Source: Wikipedia. Shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International license

What Are Hyperbilirubinemia and Kernicterus?

Hyperbilirubinemia — more commonly known as jaundice — and kernicterus are both conditions related to the buildup of bilirubin in a newborn’s blood. This buildup is the rule in newborns rather than the exception. According to Stanford Children’s Health, about 60 percent of full-term newborns and 80 percent of premature babies will get jaundice.

Under the care of a skilled medical professional, hyperbilirubinemia is 100 percent treatable. When it isn’t treated in time, the bilirubin can travel to the infant’s brain and cause seizures and brain damage, a condition known as kernicterus. 

What Are the Symptoms of Kernicterus?

If any of the following symptoms occur, treatment should be given immediately. Failure to act in a timely fashion may lead to neurological disorders like cerebral palsy, hearing loss or even death.

  • Extreme jaundice
  • Poor latching
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Low muscle tone
  • No startle reflex
  • High-pitched wail
  • Irritability

How Race Plays a Role in Kernicterus

Despite Black newborns accounting for a lower-than-average proportion of infants with hyperbilirubinemia, they make up a much higher percentage of cases of kernicterus. According to studies, Black infants make up over 25 percent of reported cases of kernicterus, despite accounting for only 14 percent of births.

The CDC lists darker skin color as a risk category for uncontrolled hyperbilirubinemia. But some of the cases of kernicterus are definitely the result of a failure of care.

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

Negligence that may result in a baby developing kernicterus can include the following:

  • Delayed treatment. When a high bilirubin lab test is needed, treatment and preparation for a blood transfusion must be initiated immediately
  • Postponing or interrupting phototherapy. Phototherapy is the prescribed treatment for milder forms of hyperbilirubinemia. If more tests are needed, they can be done under the lights. If the baby must travel for an outside test, the lights can travel too
  • Wrong metrics analyzed. This can include measuring indirect (or unconjugated) bilirubin instead of the total serum bilirubin to make treatment decisions. It can also include failing to compare bilirubin levels with hour-specific norms. A dangerously high bilirubin level in a 24-hour-old baby could be low risk for a 47-hour-old baby 

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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.

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Philadelphia, PA 19109

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