Is a Child’s Birth Injury Considered Medical Malpractice?
Published on February 27, 2019
Birth injuries only occur in a small fraction of live births each year in the United States, but when they occur, they can result in a lifetime of struggles and economic hardships for a family. Attending physicians and prenatal care providers must ensure they meet the standard of care for every patient and properly monitor pregnancies to prevent birth injuries. Attending physicians performing childbirth procedures must adhere to proper protocols and perform such procedures safely and competently.
Standard of Care for Birth
During pregnancy, an attending physician should regularly check the vital signs of both mother and child, account for any warning signs of prenatal medical risks, and provide timely and accurate advice to the mother to ensure the safest delivery possible. Following the standard of care in such a situation means accounting for the mother’s individual health risks and overall medical condition, the viability and progression of the pregnancy, and changes in the mother’s health as they arise. Mothers may sustain serious injuries from infections, preeclampsia, internal bleeding, or unaddressed medical conditions that interfere with healthy pregnancy.
Doctors also have a duty to ensure informed consent by explaining all the potential risks and side effects of any proposed treatment or procedure. If a medical reason exists for a specific procedure, such as a genetic marker, complication with the umbilical cord, or an infection, the doctor must clearly explain the need for a specific treatment such as an emergency C-section procedure so the patient can make an informed decision about her care.
Understanding Medical Negligence
Informed consent violations are just one form of medical negligence. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can endanger the lives of a pregnant mother and her child, so doctors have a duty to provide timely and accurate diagnoses using appropriate diagnostic methods.
Poor prenatal care may result in a birth injury as well. For example, if the doctor failed to check the baby’s vital signs during the initial intake for delivery and missed the window for a safe C-section, the mother could take legal action if this failure results in any type of birth injury.
Babies who suffer injuries in the delivery process may develop cerebral palsy, shoulder dystocia or Erb’s palsy, bone fractures, and a host of other possible injuries. These injuries could lead to permanent or long-term physical disabilities or other medical complications. It is also possible for wrongful birth to lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit if the physician failed to identify or report complications that may have compelled the parents to terminate the pregnancy for safety concerns if they had known.
Medical professionals have an obligation to prevent harm to their patients. If a doctor performs a delivery incompetently, such as by using excessive force while guiding the baby through the birth canal or improper use of tools like vacuum extractors and forceps, the baby may suffer physical injuries that result in permanent disabilities. The determining factor for medical negligence is whether another similarly skilled medical professional would have acted differently in the same circumstances to meet the standard of care for the patient.
Do I Have Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A birth injury is a type of personal injury, but filing a medical malpractice claim is different than a standard personal injury claim against a private individual. The claimants must first submit a complaint to the medical review board with jurisdiction over the defendant in the complaint.
If the board finds reason to believe medical malpractice occurred, the board will likely approve the complaint to proceed with legal action. The plaintiff’s attorney in a medical malpractice lawsuit must prove that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care for the plaintiff or otherwise directly caused the plaintiff’s claimed damages.
The plaintiff’s attorney must also gather proof of the plaintiff’s damages resulting from the birth injury. For example, if a doctor’s failure to monitor a patient during labor resulted in the child developing cerebral palsy, the doctor’s negligence could lead to a lifetime of physical, neurological, and developmental issues that negatively impact the child’s quality of life and require extensive long-term medical care.
When to call Knapp & Roberts
If you or a loved one has been left injured after suspected negligent medical treatment, you may be eligible to sue for compensation. Our Phoenix medical malpractice attorneys understand the duty of care that medical professionals should deliver based on Arizona law and will be able to support you in your claim of breach of accountability. We are dedicated to improving the quality of Arizona medical care by holding providers accountable for the quality of their treatment. Call our personal injury lawyers in Phoenix, Arizona to review your claim free of charge. (480) 991-7677.
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