Every year in the United States alone, about 28,000 children are born with an injury. This number is alarmingly high, especially when you consider up to 10 percent of the injuries are entirely preventable. Even if one child suffers a preventable injury during labor and delivery, that is one child too many.
Birth injuries range in severity. Some injuries can leave a child with lifelong damage to limbs or cognitive ability. Other injuries end in death shortly after birth, leaving parents with unimaginable pain.
Doctors and health care professionals have a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury to the mother and child during birth. When they fail to exercise that duty or act in a negligent manner, they could and should be held accountable for their actions.
A lawsuit might be the last thing on a parent’s mind after they found out their child has suffered an injury, but it could be an important step toward receiving compensation for medical bills and ensuring the injury does not happen again.
Birthing Room Delivery Advantages and Disadvantages
Trying to find the optimal place to give birth is a major challenge for mothers everywhere. Birthing centers have sprung up as viable alternatives to giving birth in hospitals. These are facilities not attached to hospitals where women can give birth with the help of midwives. Birthing centers are often promoted as more people-friendly and values-oriented than hospitals1.
But are they more dangerous than traditional hospital settings?
Some studies have found that birthing centers may actually be safer than hospitals for women with low-risk pregnancies. One study published in Health Services Research in 2013 concluded that “midwife‐directed prenatal and labor care results in equal or improved maternal and infant outcomes2.”
Another study from 2015 found that babies in low-risk births in Oregon in 2012 and 2013 were twice as likely to die at a birthing center or at home compared to a hospital. However, it was noted that both risks were extremely low3.
That same study noted the benefits of birthing centers. For example, birthing centers were less likely to use drugs to induce labor or employ forceps to assist in delivery.
Whether the birth takes place in a hospital or a birthing center depends entirely on the mother. But, the truth is that birth injuries from medical malpractice can happen in both locations.
Birth Injury Malpractice Definition
Doctors, nurses, health care professionals, and even institutions have a legal obligation to provide care to a patient without knowingly or recklessly causing harm. When they fail to protect a patient from unnecessary injury, they could be taken to court.
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, medical malpractice takes places “when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient4.” The negligence can come from a mistake diagnosing, treating, caring for, or managing the health of a patient.
However, not every injury caused by a hospital or doctor is considered medical malpractice. By law, an individual must prove three things. First, there must be a violation of the standard of care. A patient can expect a health care professional to deliver a standard of care to a reasonable amount. If those standards are not met, it may be considered negligence.
A person must also show that an injury was suffered as a result of that substandard care. A violation of the standard of care does not automatically equate to medical malpractice. An injury had to have been suffered as a direct result of the negligence.
Finally, the injury must have caused damages. If a patient or their family suffered a permanent disability, exorbitant medical bills, loss of wages, or pain and suffering, they could be eligible to receive compensation.
Types of Medical Malpractice Birth Injuries
Here are some of the most common birth injuries from malpractice:
- Facial Paralysis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Bone Fractures
- Caput Succedaneum
- Erb’s Palsy
- Klumpke’s Palsy
Causes of Labor and Delivery Room Injuries
Injuries during the birthing process in the labor and delivery room can occur from several different actions or inactions. These are the four most common causes of birth injuries from medical malpractice.
Failing to Perform C-section
A Cesarean section is a major surgery in which an unborn child is delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. Because there are risks and dangers to the surgery, it is only ordered when absolutely necessary. However, a failure to order a C-section can be just as dangerous. If a medical professional notices the baby is in distress but does not order a C-section, they could be sued for medical malpractice.
Improper Use of Medical Instruments
Although metal birthing instruments seem antiquated and anachronistic, they are still used to assist in births across the country. For example, some doctors use forceps — which are shaped like salad tongs — to help guide the baby out of the mother. The use of medical instruments like forceps or vacuums poses a great risk to the baby.
In some cases where the doctor is not careful, the use of forceps could result in facial paralysis, skull fractures, cephalohematoma, caput succedaneum, and worse.
Failing to Monitor Condition of Baby
Due to the pressure placed on the baby in the birth canal, it’s important for medical professionals to constantly monitor the vitals and oxygen levels of the baby. If the oxygen levels of the baby drop without being detected by a doctor, it could result in cerebral palsy.
Pulling the Baby Aggressively
In breech births or shoulder dystocia — a condition where the shoulder gets stuck inside the mother — careless doctors may pull the baby too hard. Doing so could cause a host of problems, including fractures of the clavicle, Erb’s palsy, bruises, and worse.
Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
If a doctor failed to monitor a baby or improperly used forceps, he could be held accountable in a court of law if that negligence caused in a birth injury.
Parents have a right to expect health care professionals to provide a reasonable standard of care. When they act in a negligent manner or fail to perform a necessary intervention to prevent injury, they should be responsible for paying medical expenses, loss of wages for parents, and other noneconomic damages.
Contact an attorney today to find out if you qualify for a medical malpractice lawsuit.