Childbirth is one of the most wonderful yet delicate experiences in human existence. Sometimes it can go smoothly and as planned, and conversely it can also result in complications. Some mothers have a relatively easy childbirth, while some have do not have it quite easy.
Broadly speaking, there are different kinds of complications that may occur during childbirth. These complications may arise either due to:
- Natural circumstances, uncontrollable factors such as medical or physiological factors; or
- As a result of the actions, inaction or incorrect actions of the medical practitioners e.g. the nurses, physician (gynecologist) or a surgeon.
If the complications arise from the latter circumstance, i.e. acts or failure of the medical practitioner to act, then chances are that a claim of medical negligence may have arisen during childbirth.
A claim on medical negligence related to childbirth may be made when one or more of the following situations happens:
- Injury (or death) to the mother or child during pregnancy or delivery.
- A child has been born with a physical or mental defect that cannot be explained in any way, more so when no previous tests had revealed the existence of such defects.
However, before a medical malpractice claim can have any chance of success on any of the aforementioned grounds, the negligence of the medical practitioner must be proven. This is because there are standards of medical care that are expected of a healthcare worker that must be adhered to at all times. Therefore, to prove medical negligence, there must be some action or inaction of the medical staff which is below this standard of medical care which must be ascertainable and proven to have resulted in the birth-related injuries.
There may be many complexities in gathering evidence and proving a claim of medical negligence during childbirth due to many complexities in the legal and health industry. This is why it is most advisable to speak to a lawyer who is experienced in birth-related medical malpractice matters. Residents of California who have been victims of a medical malpractice or negligence should contact a medical malpractice attorney ventura to discuss what options are available to them.
There are different instances and scenarios that can constitute medical negligence during childbirth. Some of these malpractices are:
- negligently failing to monitor and control excessive maternal blood loss post-delivery
- failure to detect a disease that could be contagious to the mother’s fetus
- failing to monitor and control the baby’s oxygen intake pre-and-post-delivery
- improper or negligent diagnosis of mother’s true state during pregnancy
- negligently failing to take into consideration the diagnosis and tests results of the mother during delivery
- including other acts of negligence taken in their own context of the situation.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If any of the above acts or more resulted in an injury for the mother or infant, the mother may sue for herself or the parents of the infant on behalf of the infant.
In an action for wrongful birth, what is being claimed is the negligent failure of the physician to detect and warn them of their child’s impending birth defects in which if they had known, they would have ended the pregnancy or avoided it in the first place. Thus, the child being born with defects due to failure of the doctor to carry out a standard medical care which could have prevented the wrongful birth. The damages pleaded would be premised on the costs of treating and raising the child, the emotional pain and suffering associated with having to deal with the condition of the child.
In a case by the parents of an infant against the healthcare provider who conducted the delivery in Kentucky, the refusal of a physician not to perform a Cesarean Section during childbirth led to dire consequences for the baby. The mother’s medical records had showed that she had a low risk pregnancy. However, during delivery, the baby began to show signs of distress with a slowed heart rate.
The physician on call stated that the mother refused to have a C-section done on her while the statements of the nurses on duty varied from this position as they claimed that the mother begged for a C-section. It was also put in evidence that the doctor had abandoned the laboring mother for another birth delivery and even had a chat with the financial adviser. As a result of the negligence, the baby suffered a lifelong brain damage due to lack of oxygen. After considering the evidence before it, the Court awarded the parents $33.8 million as damages for the costs of raising and treating the child while taking into account the emotional pain and suffering they have suffered and likely to suffer in the course of raising the child. This case highlights many other cases of medical negligence during childbirth that resulted in serious injuries.
Most states permit the parents to bring an action for wrongful birth. California is one of the states that allow claims for wrongful birth to be brought by parents. Injuries that may likely result to mother or child from medical negligence may include:
– Postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after a delivery)
– Infection (this majorly occur in the uterus especially after a C-section)
– Preeclampsia and Eclampsia (high blood pressure and high protein level during pregnancy)
– Caput Succedaneum (swelling of a newborn’s scalp)
– Erb’s Palsy (a nerve-related injury caused if the baby’s neck or shoulder is stretched too far during delivery)
– Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy
– Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) (lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain)
– Birth Fractures, etc.
Different scenarios come into enactment at the labor theatre such that some traumatic circumstances may require quick and drastic action from the doctor as standard medical skill and care. Failure to act or acts which prove costly to the health of the mother or child or both will be deemed as medical malpractice. This is often the case when a baby is beginning to lack oxygen and the doctor fails to order a C-section or there is excessive bleeding of the mother after bleeding and there is no adequate postpartum care from the doctor and nurses on duty.
Medical negligence could also lead to death of the mother or fetus or baby or even lead to injuries that lead to these grave results. Lawsuits in these situations are known as wrongful death suits.
What will be considered as fetal death depends on the circumstances and the State law. It is a complex question of mixed law and facts. Issues for determination would likely be at what point the fetus died. Was it before or during birth? It will be considered if it died in utero or at the point of delivery and whether the life of the mother was at stake when the fetus died. In this legally and medically perplexing and complex scenarios, it is best you contact a professional, that is, a medical malpractice lawyer to help in the claim and sort out the complexities based on skill and experience. This is not to mention the emotional trauma involved in the conduct of the case.
If an infant is injured or dies as a result of perceived medical negligence, the parents are entitled to bring a lawsuit acting as guardians for the infant. They are entitled to both special and general damages as compensation for medical treatment and educational therapy as well as for emotional and physical pain and suffering respectively.