Pregnancy and childbirth are wonderful experiences that will change a woman’s life. Although medical technology and practice have progressed to the point that these events almost always occur without incident, mistakes do happen. If a doctor or other healthcare provider acts in a negligent manner, however, he or she may be liable for obstetrical malpractice.
At Cooper Schall & Levy, we fight for the victims of obstetrical malpractice and will help you obtain the compensation that you deserve. Although filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can’t undo the harm you have endured, it can help you find justice for the losses you have suffered.
What Is Obstetrical Malpractice?
“Obstetrics” is a branch of medicine and surgery that concerns pregnancy, childbirth, and care for women after they have given birth. It is usually combined with gynecology – the field of medical practice concerning the health of a female’s reproductive system – into what is commonly known as obstetrics and gynecology, or OB/GYN.
Doctors must regularly monitor the health of the mother during her pregnancy, especially if she is older or has a pre-existing medical condition. Because obstetrics covers such a broad time period, many different healthcare professionals may be involved with the mother’s care. These include doctors, nurses, surgeons, hospital staff, clinical staff, and specialists. With all of these medical professionals playing different roles in the woman’s pregnancy, mistakes become more likely. Determining when the mistake occurred, and who was responsible for it, takes the skill of an experienced malpractice attorney.
These are some common examples of obstetrical malpractice:
- Failure to properly care for the mother during her pregnancy. This may include anything from prescribing incorrect medications, failing to develop a customized plan of care, failing to monitor risks during the pregnancy or failing to administer prenatal testing (e.g. for gestational diabetes).
- Failure to screen for serious and life-threatening conditions. Pregnancy places a great deal of stress on the human body, and some women suffer more due to age or pre-existing health complications. An obstetrician should check for any medical conditions that could endanger either the mother’s life or child’s life.
- Medical misdiagnosis. Doctors are able to check for genetic markers of many disabilities, as well as indications of ectopic or tubal pregnancies. Failure to use the broad array of tools at their disposal to check for these problems can be a sign of malpractice.
- Surgical and delivery errors. Mistakes in the delivery of the baby include complications with anesthesia, errors involving Caesarean sections, shoulder dystocia events and failure to monitor distress to the woman or her baby during labor.
- General malpractice. As with all medical procedures, healthcare providers can make mistakes such as failing to diagnose observable health problems (including cancer), failing to check for allergies before prescribing medications, and other general mistakes.
What Are the Consequences of Obstetrical Malpractice?
Broadly speaking, obstetrical malpractice may cause injuries to the mother and/or her baby. Some of these are irreversible and life-altering.
- Injuries to the baby. These include reduced oxygen and blood flow to the baby, brain damage and developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, stillborn, and neonatal death.
- Injuries to the mother. These include pregnancy-induced hypertension, postpartum hemorrhage, vaginal bleeding, HELLP syndrome, preeclampsia (toxemia) and eclampsia, uterine ruptures, and allergic reactions.
These mistakes, in turn, can result in significant medical bills and hospitalization, expenses related to treating and taking care of a child with disabilities and special needs, emotional and mental trauma and distress, and lost time from work during recovery, among other difficulties.
As with all medical malpractice claims, the key question is whether the doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider was negligent – that is, whether his or her actions deviated from the accepted standard of care owed to the patient.
More specifically, an injured patient must demonstrate the following:
- Duty of care owed by the doctor, nurse, or other individuals to the patient
- Breach of the duty of care, by failing to follow the accepted standard of care owed to the patient (negligence)
- The breach of the duty of care caused injury to the patient
- The patient suffered damages as a result
Failure to follow the accepted standard of care is typically the most hotly contested part of any malpractice case. Remember, not all mistakes are avoidable, and that means not all of them are attributable to malpractice. The outcome of your case will depend heavily on the facts, and how well they are argued.
Documenting damages is an important step in any medical malpractice case, including those involving obstetrical malpractice. Working with your attorney, you will want to start by obtaining medical records concerning any hospitalization or treatment that you or your baby underwent. That includes records for any necessary prescription drugs. If your child has suffered developmental injuries, documenting these damages can be more complicated, and will likely require expert testimony.
Damages also include things like lost time from work, decreased earning ability, and mental and emotional distress. Your attorney can help you quantify these losses and seek compensation from the liable party.
Contact Our Obstetrical Malpractice Attorney Today
Malpractice is not easy to prove, and your doctor or other healthcare providers will have aggressive lawyers defending their interests. If you’ve been injured, you can’t afford to take on your case without the experience of a malpractice attorney.
Cooper Schall & Levy can help. We understand the seriousness of your injuries, and we know what it takes to demonstrate that your healthcare providers were negligent. Let us go to work for you. Contact us today to discuss your case.