Spina bifida is a condition that has an impact on the spine and is generally noticeable at birth. It is a kind of neural tube defect (NTD) that can occur at any point along the spine if the neural tube does not close completely. This frequently causes damage to the spinal cord and nerves.
The neural tube is the embryonic structure that forms into the baby’s brain, spinal cord and surrounding tissues. The neural tube usually develops during the early stages of pregnancy and closes by the 28th day following conception. In babies who suffer from spina bifida, a part of the neural tube does not develop or close correctly, thereby resulting in defects in the spinal cord and in the bones that comprise the spine.
Spina bifida can cause physical and intellectual disabilities that vary from mild to severe. The level of severity is dependent on:
- The size and placement of the opening in the spine; and
- Whether a portion of the spinal cord and nerves are altered.
Liability of doctors for spina bifida
Whenever possible, doctors have a duty to diagnose, prevent and treat spina bifida. However, they have been known to commit errors that increase the probability of the occurrence of the condition, or reduce the number of treatment options. For instance, some physicians may:
- Fail to screen for spina bifida;
- Fail to identify risk factors;
- Fail to diagnose spina bifida;
- Fail to educate expectant mothers about a prenatal vitamin regimen consisting of adequate folic acid;
- Fail to give sound advice to pregnant women regarding healthy habits and good nutrition; or
- Exhibit negligence by prescribing hazardous medications that could cause spina bifida or fail to issue warnings to those who are taking such drugs