Parents may not realize that newborn infants also have rights and protections afforded to them under the law. While these rights are not as clearly defined as those for older children and adults, they still afford even the youngest children protection from abuse and neglect. As part of caring for a new child, parents should understand these rights and their responsibilities as well as the actions they may take if their child’s rights are violated.
The Convention on the Rights of Children
The United Nations has published what many regard as the overarching authority on the rights of children that member states are held responsible for. While many of these protections will not come up in the day-to-day affairs of caring for children, they provide both a foundation and a framework from which all other children’s rights are established by various government authorities.
The Convention on the Rights of Children is especially important in terms of international law and how various countries may treat children born overseas or child refugees moving from country to country. These rights may come into play if a child is born outside of the country, to parent who is not a citizen or when legal disputes or matters of custody cross international boundaries.
The Importance of Name and Identity
Foremost among the protections and rights afforded to young children is the right to a name and identity. One of the first responsibilities of parents is to name their child and establish their identity. Parents may not always take this simple task as seriously as they should, but research has shown the importance of this act on a child’s lifelong mental health and well-being. Choice of a name and establishment an infant’s identity is not something to take lightly.
Injuries in the Hospital Setting
The most common setting for the abuse or neglect of infants and newborns is the hospital setting. Many hospitals and medical organizations make very clear the standards and expectations regarding the treatment of newborns. Even so, mistakes can occur. Injuries to newborns often arise due to birth complications or improper care in the delicate hours and days immediately after birth.
Birth complications can be serious medical emergencies and endanger the lives of both mother and child. While medical technology has come a long way in making human birth safe, it remains a laborious and sometimes life-threatening process. A birth complication may arise naturally, or it may be due to improper treatment or preparation of the mother by attending physicians. It is also possible that an overseeing physician makes a complication worse through negligence, inattention or misdiagnosis. Serious problems often occur within moments and may result in lifelong injuries to the child. When a serious complication does injure a child, parents may pursue a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit against the attending physician or hospital.
Rights to Privacy
Just like other patients, infants have the right to privacy with their medical records and personal information. Violation of a child’s privacy rights may be actionable under the law if the violation led to serious harm or damages of some kind. The ability to file a lawsuit for such a violation depends on state laws.
The rights of newborn children are just as real and important as those for any other human being. These rights protect the most vulnerable new members of the human population, and they are worth understanding and defending.
Author Info: Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake. You can find her on Twitter.