Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in the healthcare of babies, children, and adolescents. Most pediatricians start as primary care providers and earn the specialization title with 3 to 8 years of postgraduate work or residency working with children. The specialized knowledge that a pediatrician must have encompasses:
- Health maintenance for children from birth to usually somewhere in their teens
- Treatment of all illnesses, infections, and injuries-general or childhood-related
- Knowledge of how constant growth affects bodily systems and illness patterns
- Strong knowledge of prevention and treatment of infection in patients with immature immune systems
- Identifying and reporting signs of child neglect or abuse
Pediatricians diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries, genetic defects, chronic disease states, behavior difficulties, developmental problems, social difficulties, and emotional or anxiety problems. Informed consent should always be sought from a parent or guardian of a child before treatment. If the patient is old enough to understand why they are being seen by a pediatrician and can make reasonable decisions, then they should also be included in the consent process. Exceptions to this are in the case of an emergency if a parent cannot be contacted. Some other instances when informed consent should be sought are the administration of vaccines or the performing of any invasive procedures (neither are without risks and these potential complications need to be explained and understood).
Legal questions and concerns that arise for pediatricians are sometimes weightier than for specialists in other fields of medicine. The reason for this is that people tend to be much more protective and emotional when anything involves their children. Ill or injured children make for especially heightened emotions and anxiety. Sometimes legal entanglements happen over what a doctor sees as a necessary treatment for a minor and what the parents view as necessary. Legal battles over a parent’s decision for their child’s treatment (or lack thereof) and what a doctor might see as neglect or abandonment sometimes happen. A pediatrician's recommendations might conflict with parental beliefs, values, or goals where child-rearing is concerned. Other areas where parents and pediatricians might disagree are immunizations, and the use of complementary or alternative medicine- but such differences can be addressed by switching to a doctor that aligns more with the beliefs and practices of the parents.
Neonatal intensive care is another tricky legal and ethical area of debate. The costs of medical care for a premature baby are astronomical. Questions can come up concerning which babies receive this care. Are some babies too sick and premature for extended care to help? Who gets to decide the answers to these questions ultimately?
Mistakes are made by pediatricians. As in any area of medicine, mistakes occur most frequently with medications. The wrong medicine can be prescribed. Or the right medicine with the incorrect dosage. Correct labeling is necessary, as are warnings of contraindications. Knowing the patient’s medical history is the doctor’s obligation to prevent possible allergic reactions or harmful interactions between drugs. Misdiagnosis or failure to treat are also possible negligence errors that can be committed by pediatricians. Parents must be certain of a procedure’s necessity before consenting to it, as some doctors might try to push unnecessary procedures by playing on a parent's fear and guilt where their children’s health is concerned. Some procedures are necessary for the child’s well-being, and sometimes giving growth and maturation a bit more time is all that is required. Treatment and surgical errors are also areas of negligence by pediatricians.
When a child is injured or has died due to negligence by a doctor, it is even more painful and harrowing than if it were an adult. Often a stronger protective instinct is at work to see one's children healthy, unharmed, and treated with the best care and knowledge available. Sometimes health care providers make mistakes that cause further deterioration of a condition, an injury, or death of a child. If you believe your child was the victim of a pediatrician’s medical error, call the Sweeney Law Firm today to let our medical experts review the facts. You may have a medical provider negligence case. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there is no cost for legal representation unless there is a settlement or a recovery of funds for you.