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Birth-Related Medical Malpractice: What Families Need to Know

Doctors can mess up too.

Both men and women may spend years wishing, hoping, and trying to become parents. Although US births hit a 30-year low last year, more women are able to become mothers (thanks to advancements in the fertility sector). But whether a woman is at the ideal childbearing age or she’s able to wait until a bit later in life to have a child, this process is no less miraculous. However, it can also be dangerous under some circumstances.

New parents want and should be able to trust their doctors to aid them in delivering a healthy and happy child. In the majority of cases, that is indeed what occurs. But tragically, that’s not always the reality for American families. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of lawsuits involving childbirth and why you may want to consider consulting with a medical malpractice attorney if you feel your doctor failed to provide the standard duty of care during pregnancy or the birthing process.

Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Pregnancy and Birth

According to recent data, nearly four million women give birth in the United States every year. But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that upwards of 50,000 of those expectant and new mothers experience hazardous or even life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth on an annual basis. From preventable conditions to sudden fatalities, women all across the nation are not receiving the proper medical care that they need and deserve.

What’s more, their children aren’t, either. The CDC reports that three percent of all babies born in the US every year have birth defects. That may not sound like much, but that figure actually represents roughly 120,000 infants on an annual basis. Not every birth defect is preventable, of course. But in some cases, medical malpractice may actually result in the development of birth defects. Such conditions account for 20 percent of all infant fatalities. In addition, birth trauma such as the damage of organs and/or tissues of an infant during childbirth and the long-term consequences of that damage can also occur as a result of medical negligence.

Birth Injuries

If the mother and/or child suffers physical (or even emotional) injuries, illnesses, or death during pregnancy or birth due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or medical staff member, this may fall under the category of malpractice. Conditions like cerebral palsy, nerve injuries, brain damage, lack of oxygen flow, hemorrhages, C-section injuries, ruptured placenta, gestational diabetes, or ectopic pregnancies could be the result of neglect on behalf of healthcare professionals. In certain cases, injuries to the infant and/or to the mother could occur if a medical staff member uses birth-assisting tools improperly, fails to diagnose and/or treat maternal infections and conditions, or does not fulfill their duty in selecting and performing the correct birth method or properly monitoring both mother and child during the entire process. Although medical staff cannot be held legally responsible for the majority of birth defects, these individuals do have a responsibility to properly inform the parents of the existence of such conditions, provide accurate information about the parents’ options, and provide the highest quality care to alleviate potential risks.

Wrongful Birth

Parents may wish to bring a suit against the medical staff or even the facility-at-large if doctors failed to warn them about child abnormalities that would have caused the parents to avoid or terminate the pregnancy, had they been informed about the risk or presence of that defect. A doctor who failed in their duty to detect physical or mental impairments during early pregnancy may be held legally responsible for negligence.

If screenings were not performed or inaccurate results of those screenings were given to the parents, a lawyer could argue that the parents are entitled to monetary damages to cover the medical costs of their child’s defect and/or for the emotional pain and suffering they have endured as a result of the physician’s actions.

Wrongful Pregnancy

This type of case may be filed if the parents have done their due diligence to prevent pregnancy through medical means, but the negligence of healthcare providers still resulted in a pregnancy. For instance, parents may undergo methods like pregnancy testing, sterilization, or abortion in an effort to prevent having a child. If those methods fail due to medical carelessness, a suit may be brought against the person(s) responsible. Unlike other types of birth-related medical malpractice suits, children involved in these situations may be born healthy (though they may suffer from genetic defects, in some cases). Whether or not the child is born healthy, the parents may still be able to sue for medical malpractice; the damages granted, however, may vary from state to state.

A doctor’s negligence could warrant litigation.

In all cases of medical malpractice, it’s necessary to prove that a medical provider deviated from the standard of care awarded to patients and that this negligence caused the injury in question. As such, these claims are often difficult to prove and require assistance from an experienced attorney. If you and/or your child sustained an injury due to improper and reckless care provided to you during pregnancy or birth, a reputable lawyer may be able to assist you in filing a lawsuit that could provide financial compensation for the physical and emotional burden you have experienced. 

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