Real Risks of Obstetrician Malpractice

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Obstetrician malpractice poses grave risks to two parties, both the mother and unborn child, unlike many other malpractice claims involving only a single patient. Most obstetrician claims of malpractice revolve around a failure of the obstetrician to diagnose complications in a pregnancy or to take action to address signs to complications or distress, or in the second most common claim, an obstetrician provides or allows a pregnant woman to take certain prescription drugs that ultimately harm an unborn child. Per industry estimates, slightly more than five out of every one thousand live births result in birth injuries. Of this number, an even smaller percentage ultimately results in medical malpractice claims. Should a birth injury or complication have been preventable, the parents of a child are afforded legal rights to recover damages for injuries sustained by both mother and child.

Common Causes of Obstetrician Malpractice Claims

In order to determine whether a given obstetrician committed malpractice during the treatment of a mother or child, victims must determine whether a given obstetrician was negligent in their care of the mother or child. The determination of negligence is made by carefully evaluating a given obstetrician’s actions in comparison with the appropriate professional standard of care. Some of the most commonly cited causes of action in obstetrician malpractice claims include:

•Failure to assess or respond to complications during pregnancy or delivery, which can include any failure to diagnose a mother or infant’s condition properly, failure to administer appropriate reactive or preventative treatment options, or a hybrid of both. In any case, the determination of negligence is made based on the standard of care applicable to a specific patient in the exact same situation. •Improper use of medical devices or other equipment ... which may include negligent use of forceps, vacuum, or c-section surgical errors. •Prescription drug errors ... In order to be held liable, an obstetrician must have been negligent in prescribing these medications to a pregnant woman, per the standard of care.

Damages Applicable to Obstetrician Malpractice The real risk of obstetrician malpractice lies in the precarious nature of infants before and immediately following birth. Any number of complications, injuries, or other problems during the birth process can ultimately cause medical problems and other damages to the infant for the remainder of their life. For parents, the burden of caring for an injured child, as well as their losses sustained as the result of childbirth injuries, are also long-term considerations. The damages applicable to obstetrician malpractice claims must account for the potentially permanent nature of certain damages to infants ...

An American article, but relevant to Australia too, and relevant to midwifery as well as obstetrics. Full disclosure, an open and honest relationship and women's involvement in all decisions being made might reduce the number of claims, except in circumstances where money must be recovered to provide for care of an injured woman or baby. A better approach would be a system that supports people who are harmed as a consequence of medical / midwifery care without the family needing to pursue legal action. It is unfortunate that sometimes harm is suffered, even when there was no breach in the care provided to the woman / baby. All interventions carry risks and pregnancy / birth are not risk-free events. Sometimes things don't go to plan, not for any wrong-doing, but because life events carry some risks. Rather than families needing to sue to obtain funds to care for a baby or woman who has been harmed, it would be better for the health system to provide for these families in the same way that CTP and Worker's Compensation does. Of course, if the health professional has acted inappropriately, the registration boards can be enlisted to provide guidance.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448